Monthly Archives: December 2020

My Sister’s Baby Blanket by Alejandro Lucero

At a Christmas party, my sister left behind her baby blanket.
We turned around and drove back through the snowy roads.
My parents kept reminding her they would never forget.

A small square stained with spit and mashed peas; it was no trinket,
and my grandma, the party’s host, already tossed it in the garbage load.
At a Christmas party, my sister left behind her baby blanket.

If she were older perhaps she would have felt no regret.
Perhaps she would have found another to save herself from the cold.
My parents kept reminding her they would never forget

the gift from our aunt who’s now alone in a pinewood casket
and wrapped in her own blanket of roots, worms, and mold.
She missed that Christmas party my sister left behind her baby blanket.

On her last days, we brought my aunt flowers and unripened fruit in a basket.
We said we loved her and all the other things she needed to be told.
My parents kept reminding her they would never forget.

I write these refrains, and think how my aunt and sister never met,
about how their hands will never get the chance to hold
at a Christmas party, how my poor sister left behind her baby blanket,
and how my parents kept reminding her they would never forget.


Alejandro Lucero is a writer from Sapello, New Mexico by way of Denver. He serves as an intern and poetry reader for Copper Nickel. Pushcart Prize nominee, his most recent poetry and nonfiction can be found in Progenitor Art & Literary Journal and is forthcoming in The Susquehanna Review and Thin Air Magazine.

Who Names this Child? by Nadine Ellsworth-Moran

God didn’t name me—
didn’t come to my father
and mother with anointing oil,
declare a greatness
over my weakness.

Yet,
there is a sound,
unnamable, I hear
rising from femur
and spleen, that pushes
through my veins.

Can I call it divine?

This name,
deeper within
that outweighs fear.

Nadine Ellsworth-Moran is a full-time minister living in Georgia. She is fascinated by the stories unfolding all around her and seeks to bring everyone into conversation around a common table. Her essays and poems have appeared in Interpretation, The Presbyterian Outlook, Emrys, Structo, Kakalak, and Saint Katherine Review, among others.

His Agenda by Peter Mladinic

to place a lens before a leaf in the sun
and evoke a flame
to see a magnificent cottonwood green in the pale high desert
to see a hawk on a wooden post
to walk at night a runway where in daylight planes land
to gather mesquite and lay it near a fire pit
to strip naked on a canyon rim and swim in the creek
and towel himself dry and put on clean clothes
to put ice and whiskey in a glass
to sit in a chair and open a paperback, Agee’s
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
to fly in a piper cub over a canyon
to see the green cottonwood alone in a corner of pale high desert
to know the cactus wren is cousin to the javelina
and the sun’s dying fire and wind
and egrets white on the Pecos
below fire-blackened trees.


Peter Mladinic has published three books of poetry: Lost in Lea, Dressed for Winter, and Falling Awake in Lovington, all with the Lea County Museum Press.  He lives in Hobbs, New Mexico.

Seas of Change by Marc Janssen

For you beginnings are never endings 
Every sunrise only rises, rises 
Into the arms of a mild waiting moon 
Tears are history, regret a rare realm. 
No, this ship, my beautiful bark only 
Arrives, it arrives, and arrives, it is 
Never swallowed by darkened horizons. 
But it is disappearing now and I 
Can’t bear it, waiving glad tears on the dock 
Is the most painful thing I’ve ever done.  


Marc Janssen lives in a house with a wife who likes him and a cat who loathes him. Regardless of that turmoil, his poetry can be found scattered around the world in places like Penumbra, Slant, Cirque Journal, Off the Coast and The Ottawa Arts Journal. Janssen also coordinates the Salem Poetry Project, a weekly reading, the annual Salem Poetry Festival, and is a 2020 nominee for Oregon Poet Laureate. 

Interview with Poet KJ Hannah Greenberg

Recently, Assistant Editor, Leslie Effron, caught up with KJ Hannah Greenberg, a regularly featured poet on Zingara Poetry Review, for an interview.

KJ Hannah Greenberg has been playing with words for an awfully long time. Initially a rhetoric professor and a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar, she shed her academic laurels to romp around with a prickle of imaginary hedgehogs.

Thereafter, she’s been nominated once for The Best of the Net in poetry, three times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for poetry, once for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for fiction, once for the Million Writers Award for fiction, and once for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. To boot, Hannah’s had more than thirty of her books published, and has served as an editor for several literary journals.

Read Leslie’s interview  immediately following this poem from Rudiments, Greenberg’s latest collection:

Corporate Life in a Goldfish Bowl
 
“Life,” a simple word, four letters, more complex than

Longer wonders; “conflate,” “promote,” and “purchase,”
Disguises possibilities working beyond corporate tang,
Inherent in the raw unfurling of so many days’ sagacity,
Activated by conversations in which others can’t engage.

Dear cohorts forward generous, eschatological sentiments,
When gold and brown cloth treasures, bookcases’ brimming
With varicolored sleeping bags, fabric backpacks, attitude,
Sidle unorthodoxly behind wooden signs, against fences,
Ride silken threads, otherwise dance among weekly sales.

Secrets despise boundaries, go radically albedo when shushed,
Seek out billboards, megaphones, access to SEO search engines,
Inner city graffiti, slingshot telemarketing, sundry pretty ponies,
Until dry cleaning solvent, white vinegar, and borax get utilized
To remove the dust, sweat, dung of some prized grandiloquence.

Supervisors eventually stay awake late enough to return votes,
Recalling how their managerial reactions, all egregious choices,
Plus, their colleagues’ belief that peers are capable of bunkum
(Children act childish), gets compromised as publicized data
Concerned with juxtaposing innocent referents, urbane jetsam.

Important institutions and individuals yield minor estimations,
Of sociopsychology resulting in maladroit communication events.
Symbolic, linguistic, aretaic, plus normative conceptualizations,
Nonmaterial cultural bits remain linguistically consequential
(Boardroom decisions yet provide silage to all unempowered.)

* * *

Congratulations on the new book launch! Rudiments is based on relationships, both with ourselves and with others. What are some specific instances that inspired the work in this collection?

Thanks! Since my writing is an extension of me, it reflects lived events as well as fictional ones. Per Rudiments, as well as per the rest of my body of work, sometimes, my work is populated by “would have” moments, sometimes, by hyperbole, and sometimes, albeit infrequently, by actual experiences. Mostly, I fashion poetry from my imagination; in actuality, I’m a staid grandma.

I think readers would be most interested in learning what part of the collection process you find most enjoyable? most laborious? most challenging?

I think I like the entire process. Writing is like lifting weights; begin slowly, don’t overdo, yet push yourself to your maximum, whether that maximum is language, nuance, i.e. layers of meaning, poems’ shape, whatever. At the gym, I take pleasure with every set of reps completed, and, later, with the cumulative changes that result from such efforts. Likewise, I take pleasure with every poem individually formed, and, later, with the cumulative effect that is a published assemblage

When working on poems, do you tend to follow one subject throughout several poems at a time? Or do you write each poem as its own entity? For example, when you were working on the collection for Rudiments, were you only writing poems based on relationships, or were you working on others as well?

 Basically, I batch work. I cook similarly and I paint tacit canvases (but not digital ones) similarly. Namely, I rough out ideas/ sentiments for a few works at a time, and then, time permitting, complete them. Rewriting, as ever, takes the most time and skill. Consequently, while I generate material for multiple pieces at a time, I rewrite only one poem at a time.

Once a poem is competed, I offer it and a cousin or two for publication. After a poem is published as an individual work, it becomes “available” for one of my collections. Rudiments is my twelfth published collection of poetry. I have a few more collections in the wings. I’m hoping one will be published next year.

Have you had to face many setbacks with publishing a book during a pandemic?

Some of my titles that had been scheduled for early 2020 have been pushed back to late 2020. As per my publishing calendar, in general,  I’ve had books accepted anywhere from a week to a decade after they had been submitted. Publication time usually averages half of a year to a year after a contract is signed.

Do you prefer to work at home? If so, how do you establish a routine to stay focused on writing?

Yes. My daily routine depends on deadlines. Some projects, such as proofing galleys can take a week or two of dedicated work. Other projects, such as writing individual poems, can take days. The crux being that many, many rewrites (ordinarily several dozen) are usually needed to make any piece publishable, regardless of its genre (I also have novels, short story collections, and essay collections that are published; more than thirty books, overall.)

Do you have any favorite contemporary poets?

Not really. When I was an English professor, I taught classic poets. As a young mom, I liked contemporary writers. These days, my taste is eclectic.

Writing poetry can be viewed as a form of journaling, and therapeutic. Do you feel this way when you write?

Sometimes, yes; sometimes, no. My reasons for crafting poems vary. Maybe, I have a strong feeling to express. Maybe, I have a vignette that I want to depict. Maybe, I have a form of wordplay in which I want to engage. Maybe, I’ve promised an editor a piece or a set of pieces. Other intentions, too, fuel my creations.

What are some must-haves when you’re writing while traveling or outside of your home?

Paper and pen. Occasionally, I use something else. For instance, while I was an undergraduate, I wrote some of the lyrics for a musical of mine, which was produced, on school cafeteria napkins during a dinner.

Whereas I ordinarily compose using software, I hate being electronically bound during vacation. Hence, I keep paper available for scribbling notes and then save the development of those kernels for when I return home.

What are some tips you can give fellow poets when they’re facing writer’s block?

Writer’s block is a griffin—it doesn’t (gasp) exist. Like learning to code, learning to play the oboe, or like learning any other skill set, writing requires discipline. Discipline means following a process as well as means engaging a schedule.

In the decades during which I’ve taught writing to university students or to workshop participants, I’ve discovered that many folks try to skip essential steps. One can no more make a stir-fry without cooking the aromatics low and slow and then cooking the proteins high and fast than one can bypass the idea generation stage, the arrangement  stage, or, much later, the seemingly tedious, but entirely necessary rewriting stage (yes, rewriting is the heart of sound writing—I’ll repeatedly harp on this topic.)

When the writing process is followed, there is no writer’s block. Rather, there is an abundance of usable materials. Students of mine who have embraced this necessary rigor have gone on to have their work published. Some of my students even earn (part of) their income via writing. Contrariwise, students of mine who have insisted on skipping parts of the writing process have wound up frustrated and have produced only unpublishable work.

Speaking of which, interested writers can contact me for private (or group) tutorials. I teach across genres and I teach the elements of literature. I am a well-published writer, an editor for several journals, a former professor, and a nominee for multiple Pushcart and PEN awards. Working with me is empowering but demanding. My availability depends on my publishing schedule.

Leslie Effron is a graduate of the Converse College Low-Residency MFA program. She served as the poetry editor for Salisbury University’s literary magazine, The Scarab from 2011-2013, and her poems have appeared in the Anthology of Poetry by Young Americans. She also gained her Certification of Interior Design from The Interior Design Institute, San Francisco, California in 2015. Originally from Maryland, Leslie found her love for the south and currently lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee where she enjoys pursuing her passion for both writing and interior design, exploring the trails of the nearby mountains, and spending time with friends and family.

Dusk, South Baltimore by Deborah Phelps 

Driving home from the old city row house
To the new suburban home,
I always twisted about, seeking out
My old friend, the orange Domino Sugars sign,
Glowing, a jewel, set in the wires of shipyards.

Admiring too, the rose-pink-gold
Chemically-tinted clouds striating over
The Hanover Street Bridge, as my father
Skirts the parameters of black Cherry Hill
Apartments and Brooklyn Park decay.

Such poverty so grandly lit!
Rose-pink-gold stratus and sundown.

As if Keats himself painted an ode
On the storefronts selling wigs and steamed
Crabs, a sonnet for the stinking
Old-style bars, the front doors ajar.
A rift of ore loaded into the abandoned
Warehouses, their brick-fronts so colorfully
Spray painted with the names
Of those already dead.

Deborah Phelps is a professor of Victorian literature and Women’s Studies at Sam Houston University. Originally, from Baltimore, she lives and works in Huntsville, Texas, home of the biggest penal colony and fastest death row in the nation. But that is a subject in other poems. She has published a chapbook, Deep East (selected by Stephen Dunn) and in many journals, including Southern Poetry Review, Spoon River Review, and Verse.

Drop-In Writing Workshop 7:00 PM 12/15

Drop in from  7:00-8:00pm EDST today for a low-stress Writing Workshop via Zoom.
Come when you can, stay as long as you are able.

A prompt suitable for writers of prose or poetry will be offered at the beginning of the hour and will remain available on screen for the duration.

A suggested goodwill donation of $10.00 though venmo (@Lisa-Hase-Jackson) or paypal (lisahasejackson@gmail.com) helps greatly.

Meeting ID: 512 194 9100
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Emily Dickinson May Be Weary by Rikki Santer

of surviving as a ventriloquist Sphinx
for novelists, filmmakers, memelords
—& poets like me.  Spectrographic
erasures bloom with threadbare
secrets—Snapchat daguerreotypes
in 3D flurries of foxglove crowns—
posters & t-shirts dwell in too much
possibility, while her jasmine tea blend
boasts to rival sunset in a cup.
How fresh can brandy black cake
taste in the rewind of how-to-videos
or namesake ice cream flavors prevail
in the melting? Like her herbarium,
collected & pressed dry—Emily’s
riddles may tire—rickety dialogue
slanting between spirit & dust.


Rikki Santer’s work has appeared in various publications including Ms. Magazine, Poetry East, Margie, Hotel Amerika, The American Journal of Poetry, Slab, Crab Orchard Review, RHINO, Grimm, Slipstream, Midwest Review and The Main Street Rag. Her seventh poetry collection, In Pearl Broth, was published this past spring by Stubborn Mule Press.

Grief by KB Ballentine

The doe stares until I turn away –
when I look back, she is gone.
No sound to tell me where,
no movement of the leaves.
Only the wind – breathing.

You left like that.
No gasping, no torturous sobs,
just a closing of your eyes,
and I was alone again.

Now I wander the woods,
hike trails where families laugh.
Where couples with dogs
smile and whistle,
where music pulses with runners,
invade the stillness of this place,
where once we towed
our own kids and dogs.

The dream, the reverie
that comes from silence, I need.
When summer sun sears
through canopies of green,
when heat hazes the path –
a shimmer – where I can see
a hind leg, a hoof – you–
appear in the shadows.

KB Ballentine’s sixth collection, The Light Tears Loose, appeared last summer with Blue Light Press. Published in Crab Orchard Review and Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, among others. Her work also appears in anthologies including In Plein Air (2017) and Carrying the Branch: Poets in Search of Peace (2017). Learn more at www.kbballentine.com.

First Death by Denise Low

after “The Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin” by Fra Angelico

Behind us lie halls of crucifixes. Bloody Jesuses
contort. Faceless gilt saints
adore Him.

No one  has told me about death or sex. I’m too young
but the museum displays the gamut.
Thank you

Fra Angelica for the prone Virgin Mary,
hands folded in prayer, no wounds,
beautifully

haloed as disciples bathe her corpse. Above float
winged handmaidens kneeling under
golden glow.

They dance from dormition into ballet swoons.
On a stage of molten light they circle
double Marys.

How I wish to enter stage among pastel flowers
jeté past shadowy Harpies.
How I wish

musicians behind the Virgin plucked lute notes.
This wonderland of jewels shines brilliant
but deadly silent.

Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-09, won a Red Mountain Press Award for Shadow Light. Other books include Jackalope and a memoir, The Turtle’s Beating Heart (Univ. of Nebraska). At Haskell Indian Nations Univ. she founded the creative writing program. She teaches for Baker Univ. and lives on Tsuno Mountain. www.deniselow.net