Author Archives: Lisa Hase-Jackson

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.

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

Morsel by Jeff Burt

Forgive me, but as I type this to you in the early hours
I cannot help but desire the cinnamon-sugar sweetness
of the toast to slip from my unwashed fingertips
onto the keys and into them, into their concussive shapes
that mapped electronically now appear before you,
I don’t want just the comfort of sweetness, or the butter
in the bread that has been transferred to the keys
that gives a satiation for having risen out of bed
to a day that will be marked by more violence and injustice
and the crooked making off with the honest person’s dollar,
I want to send the stolen pleasure of it, the giddiness
that comes from having oatmeal and plain toast day after day
and then suddenly this sweetness, this lightness
that no longer accompanies dawn but actually pulls
light over darkness, as you have done for me
so many countless days for so many countless years.
You see only words. But let your fingertips linger.

Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County California, home of redwoods, fire, fog, and ocean. He has contributed to Rabid Oak, Williwaw Journal, Willows Wept, and Red Wolf Journal.

Living in Opryland by Javy Awan

Living in Opryland—the twang of guitars
lulls through the night, from nigh and afar,
sifting caterwauls of rhymes that plait
poignant, live plaints cataloging
mishaps, heartbreaks, pangs, turmoils,
and setbacks—the spangled world is adverse,
but we plug in and plug on like traveling
showmen, setting up tents from town
to town in Grand Ole Opryland—a downhome
expanse, where ailments vary—each citizen’s
is unique, stunning, terrifying, misericordious,
striking notes all understand and sympathize.
We sync and chime to the moves, the dances,
the choruses, the improvised instruments,
the stanzas of grief and vibrance, our tribal
tribulations—always falling in love stumblebum
with the next gorgeous person impervious
to our pleas or merits till the tell-all song
reaches double platinum—the roving sights by then
are set on a starrier mate—hair more bouffant,
figure more robust, skirts pantingly shorter—
who can pen a lyric and tonsil a tune, pick a banjo,
or bow a fiddle faster than the notes can be writ.
Living in Opryland, we’re pursuing the grand
scheme of harmonies that guide us by heart.


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.

Sheets of Rain Yelling Over the Thunderous Music by Michael H. Brownstein

An anger within a calm
thunder clouds against the sidewall
and when the rain came

a frenzy of hyenas
a lightning strike of jackals
the race of gazelles

we breathed the rain through our skin
gulped it down from our hair
sloshed in it until our feet were swimming

house wrens found shelter behind bricks
jaybirds scattered into thick leaves
rock pigeons danced against wind

you can only eat so much
let your arms fall like deadwood
along the flood gates

Michael H. Brownstein’s latest volumes of poetry, A Slipknot to Somewhere Else (2018) and How Do We Create Love? (2019), were recently released (Cholla Needles Press). He has a Sunday poetry column in Moristotle.

Every Day Has Something in It by Nancy K. Jentsch

Every Day Has Something in It 
(Title from “Everything That Was Broken” by Mary Oliver) 
 
not just the first glow of hope in the east 
 golden sky becoming a canvas of stone-washed blue 
not just birds who busy the sky 
 mindful only of the task at hand 
 
not just the sheep, the turtle, the tulip in azure sky 
 sun pausing as noon’s keystone 
not just meadows garlanded with daisy and vetch 
 fitted with thistle and cricket 
 
not just the creek bank seeded with mink and crawdads 
 and hill’s dead ash tree the flicker covets 
not just fresh-laid eggs that warm chilled hands 
 the scent of sweet clover spilling into lungs 
 
not just the sun descending through frescoed clouds 
 toward dusk’s invitation to lightning bugs 
not just platoons of bats heralding night 
 while Venus wakes under indigo sheets 

Nancy K. Jentsch’s poetry appears in EclecticaEcoTheo Review, Soul-Lit and numerous anthologies. In 2020, she received an Arts Enrichment Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women. Her chapbook, Authorized Visitors, was published in 2017 and her writer’s page on Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/NancyJentschPoet/ 

Ode to the Republic by Crystal Foretia

How strange is it?
That I’ve known you all my life,
and yet I’ve never met you—

A world so foreign, yet so close to my own

because I see you,
when my eyes spot
green, red, and yellow stripes dangling 
    off the Toyota’s rearview
black warrior masks across 
    from my grandfather in grayscale.

Because I touch you,
when my fingers graze
the dashikis my brother wore
    before T’Challa made them cool
a crimson gele my mother designed
    to crown herself queen, before the photographer.

Because I taste you,
when my tongue melts under
fufu and eru soup
soft as mashed potatoes on the Thanksgiving table
plantains and puff puff
childhood fried to golden brown.

Because I hear you,
when my ears catch
AfroBeats played at graduation parties
    now featuring Akon and Beyoncé
Pidgin that Grandma whispers,
    from the corner of Nigeria and Chad.

Between lost plans and sepia-tone stories
I wonder how it would feel

to hug family I never knew,

to cross villages I only dreamt of,

to reach a home away from home

to bridge the gulf between 

“African”       and       “American”

Crystal Foretia is a sophomore studying Political Science and History at Columbia University and daughter of Cameroonian immigrants. Her poetry was first published in Surgam, the literary magazine of Columbia’s Philolexian Society. Ms. Foretia serves as Online Editor for Columbia Undergraduate Law Review and Lead Activist for Columbia University Democrats.

A Corrective for Anxious Times

A Book Review of Carol Alena Aronoff’s “The Gift of Not Finding: Poems for Meditation”
Homestead Lighthouse Press, August 2020
110 pages
$16.95

By Devon Balwit

          Some days ago—162 to be exact—my HMO offered me a free download of Calm, a meditation app. An acerbic, opinionated Jew, I almost trashed the email without a second thought. I had tried meditation many times and decided it wasn’t for me. I told myself I actually preferred my busy monkey mind, preferred letting it ramble like what poet Carol Aronoff calls one of the “mice in the attic / of old news and yellowed paper…” And yet—something made me pause—a global pandemic, perhaps, with its concomitant upheavals of every aspect of life—and I downloaded it and began to use it every morning.

It took me weeks to tolerate the voice on the app, which I initially felt too cloying, too upbeat, too mobile—but gradually, gradually, I started to look beyond its timbre to the words being said, which I came to find strangely calming and helpful. Was I, as Carol Alena Aronoff writes in her collection The Gift of Not Finding: Poems for Meditation, starting to “Imagine life / without complaint / no matter what arises,” moving towards be able to say “…Whatever arises, I will / think, just so. I will not even want to not want…”? Such a shift was shocking to me, for whom to want is, immediately, to act!

Aronoff’s poems aren’t written in my usual go-to voice. I tend to gravitate towards poets who are urbane, wry, and dark, and towards works which reference other works. But, as with the meditation app, when I slowed down and read the poems with attention, I found them tidy koans that rewarded contemplation. Why not admit that it is helpful to reflect that “Sky has no past. / It doesn’t recall the clouds / from yesterday…”? Why not consider “…The thin shell / between us … where we hide what’s / most precious. Where we break.” Why not rest a moment “Beyond judgments / of good and bad, / right and wrong. / Free of all concepts…” These are useful practices, especially in an election year, in a pandemic year, in a year of forest fires and bleaching ocean coral. Aronoff’s poems remind us that there is value in slowing down, in breathing, in allowing.

Locked down at home, I, who have loathed the repetition of weeding and tending, have suddenly become a chicken farmer and urban gardener. Always appreciative of the outdoors, now that it is my sole arena, I find that I am looking at it with much greater attentiveness. Confronted by the scent and blush of dahlias and heirloom tomatoes, estranchia and clerodendron, like Aronoff, I am prepared to say: “Nature once again / has brought me / to my knees…” and to ask: “Where will my thoughts go when I give them the garden?” Aranoff’s poems reference the landscape in the American Southwest and in Hawaii—cottonwoods mingle with Kukui leaves and moonflower, geckos with peacocks. Referencing her daily practice, she teaches us, in the words of Emerson to “Adopt the pace of nature, [whose] secret is patience.”

For a long while, although certain of the upsurge of joy I was feeling during this pandemic, I downplayed my happiness and contentment when speaking to others, not wanting to minimize the very real suffering of those less fortunate. In a similar way, I initially hesitated to allow these gentle poems to work on and for me. But what do I gain by such resistance? Why not yield and repeat with the poet:

Without the need to label
anything
mind’s endless conversation
is a flower …
No need for misgivings
or even for dream.
Everything is
just as it is.


When not teaching, Devon Balwit sets her hand to the plough and chases chickens in the Pacific Northwest. For more regarding her individual poems, collections and reviews, please visit her website at: https://pelapdx.wixsite.com/devonbalwitpoet

Escape by John Short

Pigeons in the chimney:
dark symphony of trapped souls
or distant death lament

as weather mutters all around
then through its gaps
a spectral chorus on the wind
forces me to move things never moved

the brass-scream across old slate
frees an avalanche of bones,
dust, feathers and a chaos of wings
exploding into daylight –

they circle the room, collide with walls
then settle on the highest shelf.

I ponder the world’s misfortunes,
how we suffer mostly
but how sometimes we escape.

John Short lives in Liverpool and studied Creative Writing at Liverpool university. A previous contributor to Zingara Poetry Review, he’s appeared recently in Kissing Dynamite, One Hand Clapping and The Lake. His pamphlet Unknown Territory (Black Light Engine Room) was published in June. He blogs occasionally at Tsarkoverse.