Author Archives: Lisa Hase-Jackson

All That Remains: Inspired by Van Gogh’s Bedroom by Kim Baker 

One wonders who, alongside Vincent himself,
stares down upon the empty bed.
Two framed guardian angels?
Or the visages of brothers, of lovers?
They are all that remain to witness
this hauntingly serene scene.

Moon-glow window partly ajar.
Towel resigned on a nail near one door.
Patiently anticipating painting smocks
signature straw hat at the hooked dowel.
Hairbrush, pitcher, carafe
atop an apprehensive table, waiting.

Chair pulled close to the head of the bed
as if someone had just been reading 
a soothing children’s story to Vincent
or pleading in a blanket of red woolen urgency
robin’s egg blue reasons for Vincent 
to skip the long walk to the wheat field 
accompanied only by the cold steel of peace.

When she isn’t writing poetry about big hair and Elvis, Kim works to end hunger and violence against women. A poet, playwright, photographer, and NPR essayist, Kim publishes and edits  Word Soup, an online poetry journal (currently on hiatus) that donates 100% of submission fees to food banks. Kim’s chapbook of poetry, Under the Influence:  Musings about Poems and Paintings, is available from Finishing Line Press.      

What Is Lost Is Not Lost by Pete Mladinic

I like looking at bicycles in old films
such as this one of Dawson, a mining town,
now a ghost town.  I like at the opening
the long line of coke ovens, the miners, two
men, walking home from the mine.  I like
the bicycles, the dogs, the women’s dresses,
their hairstyles, looking into their faces
wondering what happened
after Dawson, where they went, what they
did or did not do, what they did or did not say.
The lady narrator, her
last name Loy, said she and her
husband went to graduate school the following year. 
They had two young sons, Merrill, the elder
and Bill, who lives now in Eugene,
Oregon, and introduces his mother
in the film, which was shot by Mr.
Loy in 1938.  There are numerous shots
of the boys, several of Bill in his playpen
and then one where he seems
happy, having just
learned to walk.  There are shots
of the mines, the houses that sprang from
mountainsides, the church, the school.
Now, nothing left in Dawson
but the cemetery.  I like the moments of Bill
walking on his own,
but I have no idea what he does in Eugene.
He must almost be seventy.
His mother, a young wife
in the film, sticks her tongue out in
one shot.  She was born in 1917.


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.

March Triptych by Margarita Serafimova

My heart is full – an ocean of swell – with you.
Everything is green and dense, weighty,
and swaying bottomless.
White are the changing faces of the waves.

*

My life was inside of me, budding, dark-red
against my inner skin,
on a frosty morning,
when instead of a sky, a radiant emptiness reigned.

*

The dying hours are blossoms at dusk.
You touch me so, my face is trembling.

Margarita Serafimova is winner of the 2020 Tony Quagliano  Award, and finalist in other contests. She has a chapbook, A Surgery of A Star (https://bit.ly/3jDU793) and two forthcoming collections. Her work appears widely: Nashville Review, LIT, Agenda Poetry, Poetry South, Botticelli, Steam Ticket, Waxwing, A-Minor, Trafika, Noble/ Gas, Obra/ Artifact, Great Weather for Media, Nixes Mate, etc. Visit: shorturl.at/dgpzC.

My Brother Julian’s Apple Core by Alejandro Lucero

It never saved us from the rain, but
Julian’s apple core looked like an umbrella with a stem
and tasted like the Tecolote Mountains
because that’s where we always picked them.

Julian’s apple core looked like an umbrella with a stem.
He tossed it down from a tree in the Tecolote Mountains
because that’s where we always picked them.
It looked like a green planet falling smoothly out of orbit.

He tossed it down to me from a tree in the Tecolote Mountains
and promised matching Harley’s and sunglasses to keep the bugs out of our eyes.
They looked like green planets falling smoothly out of orbit.
We ate so many, the cores crept up our pant legs like scrambled field mice.

He promised matching Harley’s and sunglasses to keep the bugs out of our eyes.
I imagined riding to our apple tree. Kickstands sunk into the dirt.
We ate so many, the cores crept up our pant legs like scrambled field mice.
Through their scratches, we kept eating as they fell from their branches.

I imagined riding to our apple tree. Kickstands sunk into the dirt.
Sometimes we only took one bite before dropping those little planets to the ground.
Through the scratches, we kept eating as they fell from their branches, but
all I wanted was to turn the apples into umbrellas.

Sometimes we only took one bite before dropping those little planets to the ground.
Julian’s apple core never saved us from the rain, but
I still wanted to turn them into umbrellas
and to taste the Tecolote Mountains with every first bite.


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.

Review of Sumita Chakraborty’s Arrow by Dana Delibovi

Arrow
by Sumita Chakraborty
Farmington, ME: Alice James Books
Paperback: 2020
Review by Dana Delibovi

One night this past fall, I stood in the backyard, staring at a big, white moon in the branches of a tall and leafless tree. An eerie moonlight revealed clouds in the night sky.

I was amazed, anxious, and not a little afraid. I grabbed my notebook to capture this image, but I was powerless to seize it. As it turned out, the job had already been done, in Sumita Chakraborty’s exquisite new book of poetry, Arrow. In this impeccably curated collection, Chakraborty pierces us with an overriding truth: We can feel but never understand the sheer mass of existence that we behold, from moon to tree to cloud to our own astonished breathing.

The poems in Arrow range from the short lyric to the long, imagist montage. They share, however, vocabulary, syntax, and aura that allow the poems to flow together with a satisfying logic and cohesiveness. The book is not merely a batch of best poems. It is a series where the progression and groupings of the poems add up to something greater than the sum of parts. Chakraborty’s poetry often makes clear the appeal of such order and philosophic rigor, while also pointing out that this kind of regularity is imposed on truly unfathomable mysteries by needy human minds.  As she writes in the paragraphed prose-poem, “Essay on the Order of Time”:

                                                            …Here, the argument is that death requires the
most discrete borders of all things, and that there is a clear order to how it functions as an
event in time. The concerto was being performed in honor of a poet who had recently died.
To face this loss, this man required the myth of order.

Trying—and failing—to escape the mysterious continually drives the poems in Arrow to hit their mark. Sometimes, it’s the enigma of love that remains impervious to any effort at rational explanation. Love is an eclipse, weighty but transitory. Love is ungraspable—the poet proves she longer loves is by cutting off her hands. Just as often, it’s the enormity and variety of the universe that resists all reason. In the lyric poem, “Marigolds,” for example, Chakraborty asks (but cannot answer) the most basic of questions—why this?

                        …if we made incisions
from breastbone to rectum, the caves within
would reveal themselves to house celestial ash.

As the stag, I fear the mouth of the rifle.
As the rifle, I point my mouth, deadly, toward you.
As the hunter, I execute myself so I may feast.

Worlds such as this were not thought possible to exist.
My lord, I aim a mile beyond the honeyed moon.

Many of the images in Chakraborty’s poems, along with the emotional vehemence of her writing, bring to mind an association with the poetry of St. Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582). I have written about Teresa and her literary and philosophic legacy. I am also currently translating Teresa’s corpus of 40 extant poems, so I am very close to her work, and perhaps call it to mind too easily. Certainly, Teresa’s 16th-century rhymes and Chakraborty’s modern free verse are worlds apart in terms of prosody. Still, I couldn’t help but notice that many of Chakraborty’s important or recurring nouns—stag, hunter, arrow, breast, cave, spirit, beloved—are Teresinian nouns. Both poets are unabashed as they cry out or breakdown over their inability to understand the world. Both address the divine. Even the one poem I did not like in Chakraborty’s book, “Dear, Beloved,” had enough of these Teresinian features to resonate with me. Although I found “Dear, Beloved” too long to sustain its rapid-fire succession of images, I did appreciate the wild heart, the spiritual spark, and the rich vocabulary that linked the poem to Teresa, and indeed, to all the other poems in Arrow.

Chakraborty’s volume culminates in the multipartite title poem, “Arrow.” This is followed by a chorus of utter amazement at what exists, aptly titled, “O.” “Arrow” begins with a monologue spoken by the night, personified as the Titan goddess, Nyx, a recurring figure in the collection. After the monologue come 24 prose poems, each “titled” with a small icon of the moon’s phases. The invocation of night, the poem’s title, and the moon phases conjure up another night goddess, the Olympian archer Artemis, as well as the steampunk and tattoo images of moon phases on a double-pointed arrow.

An arrow, shot by night, aims for its target in a landscape always obscure to us. When the barb wounds us, shock follows; we feel what the Wisława Szymborska described in her Nobel Prize acceptance speech:  “Whatever else we might think of this world—it is astonishing.” We are left panting, scared, and powerlessness, just as I was that night in the backyard, gazing at the moon, the tree, and the illuminated clouds. Chakraborty has been there, too:

Truth be told. I have never lacked for amazement…
This also means I have also always held an affinity for fear, for shifting
uneasily toward the next dazzling thing. For the categories of nocturnal and diurnal
alike, not to mention crepuscular and cathemeral, the uncanny is the house best lived in.

The same could be said for Chakraborty’s Arrow. The book never lacks for amazement. It is a house to live in, and a dazzling thing.

 —-

Dana Delibovi is a poet, essayist, and translator from Lake Saint Louis, Missouri. In 2020, her work appeared in The Confluence, After the Art, Apple Valley Review, Linden Avenue, Noon, and Witty Partition. She is the 2019 winner of the James Haba Award for Poetry and a 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee.

 

 

Under the Radar by Javy Awan

Duck your head down—no, lower—down by me—
pardon my whisper, but we’re under the radar—
escaping detection, maneuvering free—
we’re at the controls where controllers can’t see,
scouring for secrets of forbidden traffic—

We’re clumsy but finessing, caressing the contours,
guiding and gliding along edges and tops, joy-riding
our own unmonitored zone—we’re under the radar!

We alone know our whereabouts acrobatic, hush-hush—
the tickles on your belly are the tendrils of leaves—
stay alert to the lifts of buildings and hills, but don’t rise
and rise and rise on the thrill—keep hugging alongside,
the target’s in view, nary a clue—we’re under the radar!

Above, the invisible rays would imprint our paths,
distinguish our craft, assign tags, and keep tabs,
tip off the hostiles to aim their ack-ack—our blips
extinct on the screen, ablaze in the skies—Amazing!—

We hit it—a simultaneous bloom! Veer back to home base,
reining-in breathless highs, lest we soar into sights—
Victorious, unharmed, we’ll rest arm in arm—under the radar!

Javy Awan’s poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Solstice, Ghost City Review, Potomac Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, and The Ekphrastic Review; two of his poems were selected for reading at locations on the Improbable Places Poetry Tour in 2019. He lives in Salem, Massachusetts.

 

Tear Down by John Sierpinski

In this broad shouldered city, in this 50’s vintage motel
arrive to check in at the office, but the cigar chomping
manager has given away our room. A pot of what looks
like tea, but really a poor attempt at coffee sits on a single
burner “hot plate.” Stale-looking donuts wait to be put
out of their misery. Sorry about that, he says with a jerk.
but I’ll tell you what I’m gonna doI can’t wait for this,
I think. For ten bucks more our honeymoon room just
opened up. He winks at my girlfriend. His cigar is
sopped. I grab the key, we are both tired from the road,
tired of this guy. Walk down a few doors past a couple
yelling behind their door. Key in the lock. This “special”
room has mirrors on the ceiling that reflect the filth,
shag carpeting up the walls, stained carpeting on the floor,
a cigarette butt in an ashtray. The word kinky is too kind.
On the floor, next to the bed, there’s a balled up washcloth
Just a minute, I say and head off toward the office.
The cigar-man is talking to a tired-looking older woman.
They both look up. The room isn’t clean (an understatement)
and there’s a used washcloth on the floor. There’s
a moment of silence, then the woman says, They were
only in the room an hour. I’m the one who cleaned the room
after they left. Fatigue has bitten my lip. The woman
hands me a clean washcloth. I turn around and stomp back
to the room. This night is disintegrating into dust. No
wonder the couple two doors down are still shouting, shouting.

John Sierpinski has published poetry in many literary journals such as California Quarterly, North Coast Review and Spectrum Literary Journal to name a few. His work is also in eight anthologies. He is a Pushcart nominee. His poetry collection, “Sucker Hole,” was published in 2018 by Cholla Needles Press.

 

Interview with Margarita Serafimova, Winner of this Year’s Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award

Zingara Poetry Review is pleased to present this interview with Margarita Serafimova.

Margarita Serafimova is a Pushcart Prize nominee and a finalist in nine other U.S. and international poetry contests. Her work appears widely, including Nashville Review, LIT, Agenda Poetry, Poetry South, London Grip, Waxwing, A-Minor, Trafika Europe, Noble/ Gas, Obra/ Artifact, Great Weather for Media, Nixes Mate, and Moria.

She has had four poetry collections published in Bulgarian and is the recipient of the 1st place prize for the Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award. Established in the memory of poet and editor Tony Quagliano, the biennial prize is awarded for an outstanding body of work by a poet who “consistently strives for cutting edge and avant-garde innovation.”

First, a poem from her most recent chapbook, A Surgery of A Star:

Weeping: Clarinets

The circle allowed us for an instant – an instant
in eternity –
to step out of it,
and then, it closed.

*

Your work has garnered the 2019-2020 Tony Quagliano award. Tell us more about this distinction. 

This international biennial prize awarded by the Hawai’I Council for the Humanities honors author Tony Quagliano by ‘recognizing an accomplished poet with an outstanding body of work’.  Under the award eligibility rules, “the poet must consistently strive for ‘cutting edge‘ and ‘avant-garde‘ innovation, which means experimental, innovative, ‘pushing the envelope‘ literature.” To quote the award-givers, “winning poets exemplify what Tony loved—poetic innovation that embraces experimental craft and a joy in unexpected language”.

The criteria for the award entail having, as a poet, “a body of work over a period of years” that corresponds to the requirement of innovation. The recognition comes with a $1000 prize.

I’m honored!

Your latest collection, A Surgery of a Star (Staring Problem Press), contains poems that are described as “cutting edge” inventive poetry. Tell us a little about how form and content work together in such brief poems as ‘L’éternel Retour to capture this sense of “piercing intimacy” that reviewers mention. 

‘L’éternel retour’ (Eternal Return), first published in LIT Magazine by The New School, is one of the poems, on the basis of which I was awarded the 2019-2020 Tony Quagliano International Poetry Prize. It is also a centerpiece of my chapbook, A Surgery of A Star (2020).

This poem is a good example of how work usually happens in my creative process: the poem simply occurred to me, in its entirety, while I was going on about my day, not sitting down writing; I recorded it in my phone, and never revisited a word. Later, I self-translated it from the Bulgarian original into English. So, my poetry-making is organic; content and form are inherently merged from the genesis, they never exist separately, I don’t work on making them come together.

I never have any poetic goal, in terms of either form or content, in mind prior to writing a poem. Poems happen to me of themselves, dropping in my palm like ripe fruit. I usually express my feelings in free-verse micro-poems, three-four lines, sometimes, just two; so, the form is relatively stable and easy. Sometimes – again, without any design – it happens that I write longer poems, but almost never longer than a page. As for the content, it is invariably impulsive and has its origins in my lived experience. I don’t write poems deliberately and I don’t write directly from my ideas – aesthetic, philosophical, social, political – so much as from my emotions and sensations. My foremost concern is authenticity: to capture an expression of what I experienced emotionally that rings true; the poem has to resonate, to feel right, above all. If it does, that’s it. I am satisfied, I do nothing more. I don’t deliberately seek for what would be the accurate or the best expression, but I have been cultivating all my life a free mind that speaks its own mind, so to speak, and when it does, poems organically occur out of the intensity of my emotional life.

Intimacy with another person, or another living being, or another manifestation of life on Earth, or being itself as a deep sensе of self, is very important to me existentially, as is visual beauty. They naturally manifest themselves in many poems that occur to me on the subject of ‘You’ or the couple as a modus of being, in which some image of the sublime is mirrored. Or, a more plural ‘we’ bond – identification with some small intimate community. My inner attention is trained on those phenomena, those moments, and that intense mental attention often produces Eros-driven works; Eros in the sense of the binding life-principle opposed to Thanatos, or annihilation. The exquisitely piercing or blessing-like balmy nature of such moments, which my mind is focused on re-producing as a verbal sight, is an existential reality for me, in my actual every-day life; it is not an abstraction or a concept. That energy of the immediate living, combined with my attraction to images and my taste for condensed language, produces highly concise visual pieces; a kind of passion. I delight in revelation – when I discover, by means of looking at things, a sense of some truth underneath their surface, inside of them, I am thrilled. If I feel energetic, which I often do, forming words is then my impulsive response – verbal expression that photographs the distilled essence of the real-life happening I witnessed. As the bosom of things is usually inseparable from their outward appearance, their imagistic presence, their truth is manifested to my eyes, which are always looking, and not to my rational brain.

How do you develop a keen eye for the imagery that appears in your work?

 All my life, I have derived a keen pleasure from contemplating beautiful natural occurrences and living beings – trees, sunlight, birds in flight, surf breaking, the moon and clouds, clear air, statues, wind moving, the sound of it in high branches, the aura, the force of it, light in water, elegant fish, a desired face. I am dedicated to looking at them to the point of saturation; I’m devoted to them. It is only natural that a part of me exists as a medium for words reflecting them. As mentioned, poems usually occur to me from actual instances of physically looking at the many faces of the Earth – the serene heavens, the magnetic soil, the soaring blue depths. Or, when I am relaxing indoors, in some pretty room, cinematographic images appear in my mind’s eye, merging fantasy, actual experience, and artifacts from the collective unconscious; then, words naturally crop up from those vivid images. Normally, my mind produces a verbal rendition of an image after the latter appears clearly in my imagination as it were against a deep dark background. As a poet, I operate from my vision. It gifts me exquisite feelings, which trigger utterances, as a sort of existential witness-bearing to the intricate beauty of existence. My role is to make sure I am at all times genuine so that I won’t fail my moments.

What kind of considerations go into building and ordering a collection of poems?

In my experience – which includes four full-length collections in Bulgarian published in 2016-2020, a chapbook in English in 2020, another one forthcoming in January 2021, and a full-length collection in English to appear in 2022 – I haven’t used rational or professional ideas as tools to structure my books. I am not an educated or professional poet; I’m a natural, self-made one. I’ve been rather impulsive, even arbitrary in my selections and ordering. I will group together works that were written in a particular period, which has marked them with a common timbre or a family of evolving moods. Often, I will arrange them in chronological order, following their natural rhythms and progression. In this way, real life serves as the director of the narrative. I will use a title that is an important signifier of the mood or underlying energy – it will be a blind-eyed choice, not a thought-through one, no considerations outside of my own gut feeling would apply (the reader is never there). I might pull in works from other periods as well, if they have some tie to this underlying binding drive or symbol. In other cases, I will group together poems belonging to a certain relationship; a gallery devoted to a single lover. Or, the collection will be dedicated to some cross-cutting presence, some comprehensive, systemic passion in my life. For instance, my debut full-length book (in Bulgarian) is entitled ‘Animals and Other Gods’ – it gathered all of my works of adoration of animals and birds, and other forces of nature, expressing my exultation from focusing on their subjecthood and their power, their glory, written over a long period of time, many years, different styles and moods. My second full-length collection, ‘Demons and World’, similarly encompassed poems written over diverse periods in my life, all somehow linked to an elusive feeling of yearning for, and choosing, the world over darkness. ‘A Surgery of A Star’ is very much about erotic desire as a capacity to transcend.

How does writing poetry fit into your professional career as a lawyer?

I don’t spend much time writing my brief poetry, it occurs to me while I am doing other things, including legal work. I then just need to take a moment to commit the lines to writing so I won’t forget them. Self-translating and submitting take more time, which I manage, being a freelancer, an independent expert; I manage my own time. However, even during a brief recent period when I was employed as an international lawyer in a fast-paced environment managed by others – during the pandemic – I was able to protect my inner energy and my spiritual space remained intact, nothing was able to stop my poems from coming. Regardless of how busy and strained at work I was, I would be walking in the park with my dogs, or returning home from the supermarket, or even sorting out evidence in a case file, and poems would simply enter and lighten the scene. It helps that I always bond with the people I have to interact with during the day, with the space I inhabit – rooms, garden, stairs, windows, with the neighbourhood, the environment that contains my life. I am quite selective and once I am able to focus on a thing or a person because I chose them, I can then love them – on a spectrum of ways – and investing myself so, I can decorate as it were the space for my poetry, make it habitable for it. Then, I share it with the people around me, whether it’s expected or not. I could not care less about conforming.

How has it been writing during the pandemic? 

For the first six months, I was in a new city, starting a new job, with strong personalities as my colleagues, with whom I shared many important things in common and equally, various cultural and other differences, which all bred tensions and strife. But we overcame, and populated our interactions variously with kindnesses, excitement, closeness, joyful surprises – in addition to the pressure of not being according to each other’s expectations. Throughout this process, I held on to my sanity by being a worshipper of the sublime oaks in my area. I was their scribe, the recorder of their crowns. They elevated me and sustained me. A full-length manuscript emerged from us. I called it ‘The Oak Odyssey’ because I was always going home, from the moment I set sail. So, this is how I traversed the rise of the pandemic. Now, I am in the Greek islands, where I feel eternally at home, the sea reminding me every waking hour of what is permanent and what is impermanent. Everything is.

Our Voices

Stark naked ballerinas with rapiers,
skin heated by some sun,
and these naked rapiers.
A scent, a long shine.

*

where the light sneaks in by Mike Jurkovic

The psychic took my personal check and I
quickly questioned all her projections.
Surely she knew my grifter past before predicting
Ten weeks on The Times Top Ten,
Amazon Prime’s Big Pick.

Have you read my stuff
it’s freaking depressing I said.
A curt evaluation I’ll concede but
I don’t see stars anymore
just bullet holes where the light sneaks in.

We need your truth she said
and I thought: Wow!
What a blurb that would make.
Let Kirkus charge me now!

This country ain’t piss she said
lending credence to my last submissions,
heft to my whole oeuvre.
Can I quote ya I asked
w/o grimace, my standard scowl of the day.
Twenty six ninety nine she said
w/o fanfare or delight.

Mike Jurkovic is a 2016 Pushcart nominee and his latest book is  AmericanMental, (Luchador Press 2020). His CD reviews appear in All About Jazz,.  He is the Tuesday night host of Jazz Sanctuary, WOOC 105.3 FM, Troy, NY.

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.