Poetry is where much of my time and energy have been going these last several years. Lest you think me a mere dilettante, I should add that I began my writing life as a poet and never abandoned it when I took up writing humor. I simply stopped sending the stuff out for publication until late in 2016. Following are links to those of my poems that are available online, along with explanatory (hopefully not mansplaining) notes about them. In some instances the publications don’t make their content available online for free, so I have instead posted links to where digital or print copies can be purchased.
The American Journal of Poetry
- “December 7, 1948”
Robert Nazarene, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of this highly esteemed publication, has a delightful (and in my experience unique) way of telling authors their work has been accepted: he gives them a personal phone call! No editor has ever done that with me before. The magazine is legendary, publishing many of the best poets in the country, including some of my personal heroes like Peter Everwine and Diane Wakoski. This piece is an odd one, sort of like The Man in the High Castle of prose poems. It depicts a kind of alternative history.
- “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?”
The title comes from a painting by Paul Gauguin, which makes this an ekphrastic poem — a work of art in response to another work of art (like “Homunculus” below). This is my second international publication, appearing in the excellent British magazine Antiphon. The following link leads to a page where you can listen to an mp3 audio file of me reading the poem:
Atlanta Review’s International Poetry Contest is one of the major competitions around. I was the Grand Prize Winner in 2019 with this dark comic ode to the family dog of my childhood, a vicious animal who took on the characteristics of the household. My thanks to contest judge Dan Vera, who picked my poem out of more than 1300 entries, and to Editor Karen Head and Managing Editor JC Reilly. There will be no online publication, and they don’t let you buy individual issues, so only existing subscribers saw the results of the contest. The poem will be in my first full-length collection due in fall 2020 from Sagging Meniscus Press. Until then, an online database called ProQuest has selected the poem as a sample to represent the issue that it was in.
The Big Windows Review
- “First Sight”
The excellent literary magazine The Big Windows Review comes out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Writing Center at Washtenaw Community College (WCC). Editor Tom Zimmerman accepted this love poem about a first encounter with the muse.
Burningword Literary Journal
“Entropy” takes Newton’s Second Law of Thermodynamics and applies it — unscientifically but I think justifiably — to human affairs. The end of the poem refers to one of the most famous poems by Robinson Jeffers, called “Shine, Perishing Republic,” a great poem of genuine protest that is still relevant today, not like the mewling and puking we see all around us now. The next-to-last line quotes without attribution from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 53, where the meaning of the evocative phrase “millions of strange shadows” is not entirely clear. I take it as a metaphor for the mysterious complexity of the human mind and spirit, a complexity reduced to mere chaos by entropy. Except that to go from one “departed shade” to “millions of strange shadows” could also imply a reversal of entropy, an increase in ordered complexity and humanness, a scientific impossibility but perhaps a spiritual possibility. So for those who get the reference it’s kind of purposefully ambiguous at the end, as a counterpoint to the overall sadness of the poem.
The Closed Eye Open
- “The Argument”
In their own words, “The Closed Eye Open is an art and literature web site that was started as an exploration of consciousness.” You have to love a literary magazine whose editorial influences include Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, as well as Abraham Maslow, Carl Jung and Albert “Thanks for Discovering LSD” Hofmann! I also appreciate magazines that accept previously published material, as I have a number of poems that are hidden away in print-only publications and have never been available online. Editor Daniel Morgan accepted my poem “The Argument,” which originally appeared in Crosswinds Poetry Journal. I’m on page 63 of the first issue so you have to scroll down a bit.
Former People Journal
- “My Personal Doom”
- “Looking into a Face”
- “The Germ of an Idea”
- “Medical Report”
- “Focus Group”
Aside from a few poems I managed to get published as a teenager, Former People Journal was the first publication to publish my work when I finally started sending it out again in late 2016. I will be forever grateful to them for that encouragement at a crucial time. “My Personal Doom” and “Looking into a Face” are part of a set of love poems. Several of these draw inspiration from current ideas in various sciences as, apart from poetry, science is mostly what I read these days. “My Personal Doom” refers to cosmology and quantum physics, “Looking into a Face” to cosmology and symmetry (yes, the universe does seem to have resulted from a broken symmetry). “The Germ of an Idea” might appear to be about current political events but in fact the earliest draft dates from the seventies. Frankly it’s a little scary how relevant it still is. “Medical Report” is mostly meant to be funny, in a slightly nauseated, off-putting way. “Focus Group” was written after overexposure to this favorite device of marketing researchers. This one is meant to convey both humor and horror and, like “The Germ of an Idea,” is a bit of a political comment as well, something I am not otherwise prone to do.
- “Edgar Allan Crow”
These two poems are my second publication in Former People Journal, the first place to accept my work when I switched from writing humor to poetry several years ago. “Boodina” is about a childhood pet, a gray tabby cat who tried to impart hunting skills to me when I was six or seven. “Edgar Allan Crow” was another family pet, a crow with an amazing gift for human speech and imitating other animals.
The Furious Gazelle
- “Bach’s Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in F Minor, BWV 1056 (Largo)”
This poem first appeared in the print-only journal Clover, a Literary Rag. The Furious Gazelle — “literary as hell” — was kind enough to give it an online home and also to declare it a finalist in their Spring 2018 Poetry Contest.
- “The Sound of Water”
- “Two Giant Snapping Turtles Making Love”
- “Primitive Instincts”
“TSA” is about everyone’s favorite government agency and will probably get me on the No Fly List. “Flying” muses on the earth below from up in the air. “The Sound of Water” is just that. “Two Giant Snapping Turtles Making Love” recounts something I once saw with my own eyes. “Primitive Instincts” was inspired by recent readings in evolutionary psychology.
- “3:07 a.m.”
The Furious Gazelle reprinted this poem, originally in the print-only journal Fjords Review. The subject is the time of night as experienced by an occasional insomniac who doesn’t like to let any poetic experience go to waste.
- “First Flakes”
The Furious Gazelle also reprinted this slightly whimsical seasonal poem, which first appeared in the print-only publication Crosswinds Poetry Journal.
The Green Light Literary Journal
- “A Party”
- “The House of Memory”
Two of my poems were selected for the special Halloween edition of The Green Light Literary Journal. “A Party” recounts a largely true story that only becomes a tall tale at the end. “The House of Memory” reflects on a bleak and brutalizing childhood, as seen in dreams of the house where seven feral children grew up. Only my siblings will understand all of the references, but the feel of it should be apparent to anyone. Happy Halloween!
Grey Sparrow Journal/Snow Jewel 7
One of many poems I have written while staying at the house of my sister Cara and brother-in-law Tom. That there was a spider on the ceiling in the middle of the night is in no way a comment on their housekeeping skills. The most exciting thing about getting into this issue of Grey Sparrow Journal (which bears the subtitle of Snow Jewel 7) is that it also features work by Robert Bly, one of my all-time favorite poets and a large influence throughout my writing life for his poetry, translations and criticism. The magazine refers to him as “our national treasure,” which is right on the money as far as I’m concerned.
The Harpoon Review
- “Life and Death and the 5th Avenue Bus”
The Harpoon Review is a literary journal founded and edited by Gary E. Lovely. This poem, which recounts a real-life incident from my brief time living in Manhattan, is somewhat influenced by the “I do this, I do that” style of my favorite New York poet, Frank O’Hara.
“Homunculus” is an example of ekphrasis, a work of art responding to another work of art, in this case a humanoid figurine observed at a natural history museum. Eat your heart out, W.H. Auden!
The Nervous Breakdown
- “The Mystery of Evil”
I’ve been trying to break into The Nervous Breakdown for years, and finally managed it with this poem about a childhood acquaintance who committed unspeakable acts and died a sordid death. The site founded by Brad Listi is one of the most comprehensive literary destinations around, comparable to McSweeney’s and in some ways going beyond them. They don’t do a little of everything, they do a LOT of everything.
Noctua Literary Review
- “The Sound of Weeping”
Noctua Literary Review is a literary journal managed by students in the graduate writing program at Southern Connecticut State University. “The Sound of Weeping” is a sonnet in Elizabethan, not Petrarchan, form (i.e., three quatrains and an end couplet). I think it best to leave the origins of this poem shrouded in mystery. I will merely point out that in addition to the usual end-rhymes there is a lot of internal rhyming and other harmonics going on in these lines.
- “A Mist in the Tree”
The Nonconformist Magazine, a fine journal with a lot of engaging writing about books past and present, has published my poem “A Mist in the Tree.” Thanks to Managing Editor Nina Sobczak and Editor-in-Chief F. R. Foksal. The poem is hard to describe, but then if it were easy to describe, I wouldn’t have needed to write it. I can’t help noting that it manages to shoehorn Jesus, Hitler, Homer and W.C. Fields into the same sentence. Surely I get extra points for that?
This excellent poetry site began as a closed regional writers group, and gradually expanded to include the rest of the universe. Not much to say about “Story” except that it is an attempt to encapsulate the tragic sense of loss in something close to parable form. “Meditation” is both a response to practicing mindfulness, and a flawed example of the same. The “crickets” referred to are actually the continual insect-like background buzz that one hears when one sits quietly (if one happens to be me, anyway). “What’s-Her-Face” is obviously a breakup poem. I hasten to add this is not about any recent events.
- “This Moment”
Northern Vermont University is the home of the excellent literary journal pamplemousse (French for “grapefruit”). “This Moment” attempts to describe and mimic the significance of each passing bit of time. One goal in writing it was to do this without the interruptions of punctuation. Instead, all of the heavy lifting of pauses and so on is accomplished using only line breaks.
La Piccioletta Barca
- “Morning Likeness”
La Piccioletta Barca (“little boat”) is a literary arts journal that takes its name from an Italian phrase used by Ezra Pound in his Canto VII. The publication launched late in 2018 at Trinity College at Cambridge. Not surprisingly, it has an invigorating international flavor. I’m very pleased that they accepted this brief nature lyric, which is certainly influenced on some level by Pound’s imagism, as well as questions about how thinking in similes may affect our ability to directly experience the world.
The Poet’s Billow
- “Winter Begins” (winner of the Bermuda Triangle Poetry Prize)
The Poet’s Billow is a multifaceted resource for poets, and also sponsors several annual competitions. One such contest is the Bermuda Triangle Poetry Prize, so-called not because all submissions to it disappear into thin air, but because there are three equal winners, like the three angles of a triangle. The theme for 2017 was “Revolution,” and my poem “Winter Begins” was a winner. Although it starts as a seasonal reflection, it does end up in a revolution of sorts led by the field mice. And I suppose every change of season is a revolution in its own right.
- “Northside Park”
The notion of writing or reading poetry seems quaint at the moment, but I’ll go ahead and put this out there because I prefer peaceful, nurturing activities to the other kind. Poydras Review, now in its 10th year, is a fine online arts monthly based in Los Angeles. Today Editor-in-Chief Sarah Rae Newman and Poetry & Art Editor Jodi Capaci posted my poem “Northside Park,” which concerns a lovely little place place known to everyone who has lived in Wheaton, Illinois. For me it was much more than a park. It was my chief refuge from a violent and unsafe home where some form of abuse was always threatening me and my siblings. Here’s hoping nobody burns it down anytime soon, because it may serve as a safe haven for other children even today.
- “The Sleep Test”
In fact I wrote this the day before the test, and afterwards was surprised to see how accurate it was (aside from the hallucinations of course). This is a prose poem, meaning it has no rhyme scheme or syllabic scheme typical of formal verse, although the line breaks and the overall dreaminess allow it to straddle the two worlds of poetry and prose.
Quail Bell Magazine
- “Shampoo-Conditioner (A Poem of Protest and Resistance)”
- “Two Sisters”
Quail Bell is a quirky but lovable magazine that goes its own strange way with attitude aplenty, making it a perfect home for these poems. After the election and the hysteria that understandably followed (and still has not abated), I struggled with how to respond as a writer. My solution was to take the slippery ambiguous poet’s path and try to have it every which way. Yes, there is genuine protest and resistance of some kind in “Shampoo-Conditioner (A Poem of Protest and Resistance).” Yet the subject is so mundane and ultimately trivial that it also becomes partly a parody of the sometimes knee-jerk Resistance. “Two Sisters” is more straightforward, being a tribute to my own sister’s cats. Here’s hoping I am the first poet in all history to think of writing about cats. Fingers crossed! To save you a trip to the dictionary, a demiurge is — to quote Wikipedia — “an artisan like figure responsible for the fashioning and maintenance of the physical universe,” yet something less than a full-fledged god. Maybe a demigod. If you saw one you’d still be tempted to worship it.
- “From My Mountain”
The poem “From My Mountain” is now live at the delightful Quail Bell Magazine. It’s an attempt to be funny and serious at the same time. I also thought it would be challenging to dive right in with an unreliable narrator and then proceed as if nothing had happened. This may explain why I had to submit it 157 times to find a publisher. No kidding! Note to other writers: believe in what you do. Don’t take no for an answer. I should’ve just started with Quail Bell, they’re all about the weird. You be the judge.
- “You’ve Been Warned”
- “The Darkened Room”
I was very pleased to have these poems land at this linguistically and visually exciting magazine of the literary arts. “You’ve Been Warned” and “The Darkened Room” are recent love poems, not graphic but pretty hot. You may have to fan yourself after reading.
Right Hand Pointing
- “The Heart Goes Out”
Here is the first micro-poem I have been able to get published. There are more waiting in the wings for some weak-willed editor to fall under their spell. Micro-poetry generally refers to any verse under sonnet length, which is 14 lines. This one is a simple rhyming quatrain that hopefully resonates a bit.
- “A Last Villanelle”
Despite the title, which alludes to the bittersweet nature of last things, this is actually my first villanelle. It is an oblique elegy for and tribute to my friend and fellow poet Brett Foster, who died way too young in 2015. Roanoke Review is one of America’s more venerable literary journals, having been founded in 1967 at Roanoke College in Virginia.
- “Summon the Stones”
This former print publication, now online only, has been around for quite a while. “Summon the Stones” attempts to interrogate the natural world about our human separation from it. “Still” is another love poem. I’m afraid I took more delight than a grown man should have in opening a love poem with the line, “There is the stillness of rot…”
Shot Glass Journal
Shot Glass Journal is a publication of Muse-Pie Press focusing on the best short poems of 16 lines or less, in any form or style. Editor Mary-Jane Grandinetti kindly accepted two of mine, with the self-explanatory titles of “Cruelty” and “Fall.” Both are straightforward meditations on their respective subjects.
South Florida Poetry Journal
All I’m going to say about “Abduction” is that it concerns something that actually happened to me. There are no bookmarks for individual poems, so you just scroll through the issue. Mine is the fifth poem down.
The Sun Magazine
“Mindfulness” can be thought of as a sort of sister poem to “Meditation” (see the entry for Otis Nebula above), although clearly not as serious. Call it my way of facing the future and refusing to join the nationwide hyperventilation over current events that are out of my or anyone else’s control. Getting something into the highly esteemed Sun Magazine is probably my biggest score to date in the rough and tumble world of poetry.
- “That Was Already True”
Having published a poem in The Sun Magazine previously, I was invited to submit any new work dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. I didn’t have anything on hand, so I wrote one just for them, and they have accepted it. It’s called “That Was Already True” and it appears in their July 2020 issue. The Sun is one of the best places for a poet to be seen. As a general interest publication it has a large readership, including national distribution in most bookstores that carry periodicals, such as Barnes and Noble.
Talking Gourds: Telluride Institute 2019 Fischer Poetry Prize
- “Tokyo Rose”
Every year the Fischer Prize awards one grand prize winner and five finalists. This poem was named First Finalist, so I guess runner-up, second place, something like that? I got to attend the festival and read the poem at the award ceremony, which was a wonderful experience. It’s a narrative poem that tells the true and somewhat heartbreaking story of Tokyo Rose, whose life intersected with that of my family slightly when she relocated to Chicago after her time in prison for treason, and opened an Asian novelties store.
Triggerfish Critical Review
- “Wrong Cave”
- “The Innocence of Youth”
Triggerfish Critical Review gets its name from the fact that in addition to publishing poetry, it has the poets in each issue comment on each others’ work. I found it to be a unique and fascinating experience. In the case of my own poem “Wrong Cave,” they even let me comment on it myself, for reasons that will become apparent. “Wrong Cave” and “Pumpernickel” share a common character, Roberta, and were written shortly after I met her. “The innocence of Youth” is more of a noir mystery in poetic form. All three are comedic prose poems with a serious undertone. If you say, “Wait, these aren’t prose poems! They aren’t divided into paragraphs and the line breaks don’t look like prose!” I can only reply that this is the way James Tate did it and he is my master when it comes to prose poetry. You can take it up with him. Except he’s dead. The poems that I commented on by other writers are “Jorge Luis Borges in the streets of the French Quarter, 1980” by Richard Weaver, and “Ars Poetica Conference” by Larry Woiwode.
- “The Dream”
- “New Year”
- “To Michael Beasley, Who Beat My Turtles to Death”
Verse-Virtual is an online magazine and writing community edited by the sagacious Firestone Feinberg. “The Dream” is about my primal fear of being subsumed by community groupthink, something I felt strongly even as a child. “Mementoes” and “New Year” are both breakup poems dating from quite a while ago, only now seeing the light of day. “Self-Interrogation” sets the spiritual practice of self-examination in a comic context. “To Michael Beasley, Who Beat My Turtles to Death” is a true story and needs no further explanation. One nice thing about Verse-Virtual is how they encourage readers to interact with and respond to writers, and vice versa, which is why they include writers’ email addresses.
- “Walking After Dark”
This is a villanelle, a 19-line poem with five stanzas of three lines each and a concluding stanza of four lines. There are two rhymes and two end lines that alternate between stanzas, getting repeated at the end. The most famous example in English is the powerful Dylan Thomas poem “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night,” about the death of his father. This one tackles a more mundane subject: why I prefer to walk at night.
- “The White Album”
- “Sgt. Pepper”
- “December 8, 1980”
These three are from a sequence of Beatles-related poems I’ve been working on, called Fab Sonnets. They will probably become a chapbook someday if I can finish enough of them.
- “The Blizzard of 1967 (Chicago)”
“The Blizzard of 1967 (Chicago)” is part of the Feral Grief section that begins my first full-length collection, Falling in the Direction of Up, coming in the fall of 2020 from Sagging Meniscus Press. The storm left a snowfall in its wake that has still not been equaled in Chicago. Many thanks to Editor-in-Chief Firestone Feinberg, Managing Editor Jim Lewis and the rest of the crew.
- “Two Winter Haiku”
A vibrant new literary journal, Viscaria Magazine, has published a couple of short poems of mine called “Two Winter Haiku.” Nice to be in on the ground floor of an exciting beginning. There are countless theories about the rules of haiku. One of the oldest and most traditional is that they should be nature-based, or at least contain some seasonal element. These are about a breakup that occurred in winter, and both refer to the season, at least by implication.
Wilderness House Literary Review
Another arachnid poem, this time about a true encounter with an injured wolf spider. Wilderness House Literary Review specializes in nature poetry.
- “Falling in the Direction of Up”
Yemassee Journal is “the official journal of the University of South Carolina since 1993.” It’s quite well done. This poem has a winding history. I had already decided that I wanted the title to be the name of my first full-length poetry collection, tentatively scheduled for Fall 2020. The title is adapted from a catch-phrase from the 1950’s British radio comedy series the Goon Show, where the young Peter Sellers got his start. When the Beatles met their producer George Martin, they didn’t care what other musical acts he had worked with, but they were terribly impressed that he had made records with the Goons. That’s how they knew they’d get on with him. Anyway, one of the characters would sometimes refer to “falling in the direction of down,” a funny phrase that I simply turned around to sound slightly uplifting, perhaps influenced a bit by Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise.” Thing is, I didn’t have a title poem to go with the title! Then some people organized an art exhibit of fascinating drawings by Michael Dunn at the People’s Church in Kalamazoo and asked if I could contribute something (each drawing was accompanied by an ekphrastic poem). One drawing featured a bird, an angel and a woman’s face, and the poem came together very quickly after that.
The following publications do not make their content available online for free. The links are for buying digital or print copies. “The Argument” won Honorable Mention in Crosswind Poetry Journal’s annual contest. Into the Void and Light are notable for featuring both good poetry and good art, the former in full color and the latter in stunning black-and-white photography. Into the Void was my first foreign publication, being based in Canada.
Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review
- “Love Fog”
The simple idea behind this poem is to treat the start of a romance as a severe weather warning. Borderlands, an Austin journal started in 1992, doesn’t put any of its content online, so this poem is only available in the print publication. Follow the link and order Issue 50.
Clover, a Literary Rag
- “Bach’s Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in F Minor, BWV 1056 (Largo)”
- “Cottonwood Seeds”
This sumptuous biannual magazine hails from the Independent Writers’ Studio in Bellingham, Washington, a group founded by Mary Gillilan. They publish poetry, fiction and essays from around the world. I landed two poems in Volume 14. “Bach’s Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in F Minor, BWV 1056 (Largo)” uses a favorite passage by my favorite composer to discuss the life, work and death of J.S. Bach. I first encountered Glenn Gould’s recording in the film adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, and it has haunted me ever since. It is unfortunately true that the same quack eye doctor managed to kill both Bach and Handel. “Cottonwood Seeds” muses on the unique characteristics of the most under-appreciated of trees.
Crosswinds Poetry Journal
- “The Argument”
- “First Flakes”
“The Argument” constitutes somewhat of an homage (though a very nonspecific one) to Federico Garcia Lorca. To clarify: “First Flakes” is about an early snowfall, not breakfast cereal or the inhabitants of an asylum.
- “The New Sangria”
- “Gray Fox”
“The New Sangria” and “Gray Fox” are both funny, fanciful prose poems approaching reality through unreality. The former relates an encounter with some sort of extraterrestrial, and the latter with a philosophical talking fox. This anniversary issue of Emrys Journal was dedicated to humor.
- “3:07 a.m.”
“Blizzard” is written in syllabic verse, in this case seven syllables per line. The subject is a snowstorm so heavy that it almost makes the world we think we know disappear. “3:07 a.m.” was composed at exactly that time. I’m often awake in the middle of the night, reading or writing or, as here, just listening. Fjords Review is a fine quarterly journal out of Lynchburg, Virginia.
The Ibis Head Review
- “Soup Kitchen”
Wherever I live I always volunteer at a local soup kitchen, washing dishes. In Stevens Point, Wisconsin, where I lived at the time this was written, it was the Place of Peace, part of the Evergreen Community Initiative, which also runs a food pantry and a clothing pantry. It’s hard to write truthfully about the people served every week without sounding unintentionally cruel or condescending. In the end this is just one more experience that teaches how the world is not divided into the broken and the unbroken. It is divided into those that know they are broken and those that do not. Those that do not know are usually more dangerous. They often wind up in positions of influence — mothers or fathers, school board members, corporate officers, politicians — unconsciously projecting their brokenness beyond the intimate circle of misery in which their lack of self-knowledge ensures that they will always live.
Into the Void
- “I long to enter the unholy…”
A rapid-fire series of images and metaphors about the desire to merge with nature or the universe. Into the Void is a Canadian journal.
This poem makes ironical use of the biblical language of praise to convey a less-than-praiseworthy state of mind — feelings of ennui, futility and worthlessness.
- “Natural History”
Phantom Drift calls itself “A Journal of New Fabulism,” a description that includes the work of Jorge Luis Borges, Federico Garcia Lorca, and other 20th century authors from around the world. This poem seems to qualify for admittance by virtue of some lines and images that partake of a sense of the dreamlike. Not quite surrealistic, but hovering right on the edge.
- “Father’s Belt”
My poem “Father’s Belt” did not win the Edwin Markham Prize for Poetry sponsored by the highly esteemed Reed Magazine, but Poetry Editor Anne Cheilek said, “Your piece immediately stood out for us. We liked it very much, and if it is still available, we would love to publish it in Reed 153.” I’m no dope so I quickly said yes. It’s a persona poem — one in which a person, idea or thing speaks for itself — that I wrote following an inspiring workshop led by Marion Boyer at the 2019 Kalamazoo Poetry Festival. Many thanks to Anne, Marion and the Festival! The magazine is print-only and the print edition is sold out. Click on the above link to buy a digital copy.
Rip Rap Literary Journal
- “Outside it has stopped…”
I am gratified that the Editors-in-Chief of Rip Rap Literary Journal, Lauren Lavin and William Godbey, accepted my poem “Outside it has stopped…” for their latest issue, number 42. It was written before the virus took over our lives, but it may be oddly relevant as it deals with mortality. Since 1951, Rip Rap has been designed and produced annually by students in the Master of Fine Arts, Creative Writing program at California State University Long Beach (CSULB). They don’t put their content online right away, but eventually it does wind up on the Issuu digital publishing platform. If you want a hard copy before then, you can DM them through this Facebook link.
- “Night Inventory”
Soundings East is the annual literary journal of Salem State East University in Massachusetts. It launched in 1973 and is still going strong. Perspicacious Poetry Editor Angelica Schlieff included my poem “Night Inventory” in Volume 42. The magazine is print-only, and there doesn’t appear to be any way for non-contributors to order copies, but the poem will be part of my full-length collection coming in Fall 2020.
- “Fall Colors”
Since 1978, Star*Line has been the official publication of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association. It remains the premier outlet for that genre. Every once in a while I write a poem in that vein, and now Star*Line’s Editor Vince Gotera has included one of them in issue 43.1, titled “Fall Colors.” It’s not your typical ode to Autumn, seeing as it involves a tree called the vampire maple. The magazine is available in PDF and print only. Subscriptions are part of the annual membership, which costs $15 per year for PDF’s, and $45 per year for print copies. Click on the above link for more info.
The Stonecoast Review
- “At the Dentist”
The Stonecoast Review is a fine print-only journal out of the University of Southern Maine. I’ve been trying to break in there for several years. They nearly took one poem last fall but felt it was too narrative, not lyrical enough, and wondered if I would consider recastingt it as prose. I asked if they had ever read any Robinson Jeffers and challenged them to a duel, but apparently they didn’t hold it against me as they have graciously accepted my poem “At the Dentist” for their summer issue. This one is so damned lyrical it will make you weep, though not as much as the dentist will. At least some credit should go to the nitrous oxide.
More of my poems have been accepted and are forthcoming at the following publications, not yet available in any form. I will post notes about them as they do become available.
The Bitter Oleander
I got my first acceptance from The Bitter Oleander after nearly four years of trying to break in. This was my seventh attempt. The poem they took is called “Nocturne,” consisting of 11 brief lines about the hours before dawn. Among other poets who have published in Bitter Oleander are two of my all-time heroes, Robert Bly and W.S. Merwin, as well as Kalamazoo’s own talented Hedy Habra. I will be in good company when the issue comes out this fall (I believe they are print-only). Thank you Editor Paul B. Roth! You just made my day, my week, my month.
I love breaking into literary magazines from other countries! Constellate, a relatively new journal based in Birmingham, England, has accepted my poem “Blizzard,” which is about a winter storm, not a Dairy Queen milkshake. The poem was previously published in Fjords Review and in my first chapbook, but has never been available online. So many great things come from Birmingham, the second largest city in the country. Both W.H. Auden and J.R.R. Tolkien grew up there. Musically it gave us The Move, The Moody Blues, Traffic / Steve Winwood, the Electric Light Orchestra, and Musical Youth (remember “Pass the Dutchie”?). I visited the city once many years ago to write a story about the Royal Crown Derby porcelain factory. How long ago? The Specials song “Ghost Town” was still a new hit on the radio.
The Furious Gazelle
- “I long to enter the unholy…”
- “Natural History”
These two poems were first published in print-only journals — “I long to enter the unholy…” in Into the Void, and “Natural History” in Phantom Drift. Thanks to The Furious Gazelle’s willingness to reprint them, they will soon have a permanent home online.
I just learned that my poem “Rudy” has been accepted by I-70 Review for their 2020 issue, due in September. They’re a print-only literary annual based in Lawrence, Kansas, whose motto is, “Writing from the Middle and Beyond.” Many thanks to Editors Maryfrances, Gary, and Greg. Among other poets they have published is Diane Wakowski, whose work I have loved ever since reading “Dancing on the Grave of a Son of a Bitch.” “Rudy” is about a son of a bitch from my own life, the creep who ran the kennel behind the house where I grew up in Wheaton, Illinois.
The New Guard Literary Review
- “Dean Natkin”
This poem was accepted as a semi-finalist in The New Guard Literary Review’s Knightville Poetry Contest. It will not advance any further in the competition to be judged by Richard Blanco (which would have been cool!) but it will be published in the next issue of TNG, which is Volume IX and comes out in November 2020. The poem is titled “Dean Natkin,” and it’s about a gentleman weed dealer who was a family friend and one of the more benign and stable influences in my young life. When I say gentleman, I mean, he only sold weed to white collar professional adults. He didn’t traffic in the hard stuff or sell to children. So technically a criminal but also paradoxically one of the better human beings to cross my path. He also introduced me to the surreal comedy of my dear friends the Firesign Theatre, a primary creative influence on my own writing. There will be no web publication for this poem, it’s print only.
The Penn Review
- “A Typical Weekend in My Young Life”
Founded in 1951, The Penn Review is the oldest continuously published literary magazine at the University of Pennsylvania. They are also among the best in the country, both with their literary content and their visual content. “A Typical Weekend in My Young Life” records a harrowing occasion when myself and my six siblings were left in the care of a disturbed man in the midst of a cocaine and alcohol binge. How all of us are still alive and most of us are relatively sane, I’ll never know.
Plume Poetry Journal
- “Christmas Nineteen-Sixty-Something”
- “Notes from My Doppelganger”
I’ll have two poems in Plume Poetry Journal around early summer or so, courtesy of Editor Danny Lawless. Plume would be on just about anybody’s list of the top 20 poetry outlets in this country. The current issue has work by Jessica Greenbaum, Carl Phillips and Dean Young, among others. I rest my case. The poems they took are “Christmas Nineteen-Sixty-Something,” about a hilarious/horrific holiday from my youth, where Hitler played a bigger part than Santa or Jesus, and “Notes from My Doppelganger,” one of the weirdest things I’ve ever written. At least one of those is destined for my next poetry collection. Thanks, Danny!
Third Coast is one of the country’s premier literary journals, coming out of the Western Michigan University English department right here in Kalamazoo. Therefore I take a special hometown pleasure in the fact that they accepted my poem “Loneliness” for an upcoming issue. Thanks to Poetry Editor Nicole Mason and the other editorial people who said yes to this crazy quilt of a poem, which is part humor, part sorrow, and partly deranged! The magazine is print-only, so when it comes out I’ll post a link for anyone who wishes to order it.
Thorn Literary Review
I’m pleased to report that a lively new online quarterly journal, Thorn Literary Review, has accepted my poem “Overflowing” for their third issue, due this fall. Thanks to Guest Editor Courtenay S. Gray. The poem is a little hard to describe, but is basically about having an abundance of inner feeling hidden from one’s fellow humans and projecting it onto the natural world. I’ll post a link when I have one.
- “My Dinner with Fahey”
- “That Morning”
Verdad Magazine is a twice-yearly online literary journal out of Houston, Texas, now in their 16th year. They’ve published many of the best poets around, including Christopher Buckley. I’ve been trying to break in there for years and just succeeded on my lucky seventh attempt. Thanks to Poetry Editor Bill Neumire and Editor-in-Chief Bonnie Bolling for taking two poems, “My Dinner with Fahey” and “That Morning.” The former recounts my riotous one and only meeting with the master of what is called American Primitive Guitar Music, John Fahey, and the latter is a brief love poem consisting of two rhymed quatrains. I’ll post a link when the issue goes live.