Artwork by Gene McCormick

Books Received, Reviewed, Acknowledged

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Rob Whitbeck ed. The Sparrow Survives: Selected Poems of Leonard Cirino, Diamondback Press, 2022, 138 pages, $16-

You don’t know how much you miss someone’s voice until you hear it again and then you realize exactly how much you missed it. This is how I felt reading Leonard’s Selected Poems, ably edited by his friend Rob Whitbeck.  Rather than taking a chronological selection from each of the forty plus full-length books and chapbooks, Whitbeck has wisely organized the poems according to themes, creating a new look at Leonard’s vast body of work.

Leonard’s life was fraught, to say the least. His substance abuse begun in the 60’s. It was so out of control that he was jailed, then hospitalized, for many years where a regimen of therapy and new drugs helped restore his mental balance. It was during one of his acute psychotic episodes that he suffered extreme delusions leading him to kill his infant daughter which was the immediate cause of his incarceration. Throughout the rest of his life, his work was marked by despair and extreme regret over this rash, delusional act. Anyone who knew Leonard, as I did, and his work, as I do, saw hundreds of pieces of evidence in his poems and his letters.

Leo, as he liked to be called by his friends, was a diligent correspondent who could always be counted on for a fair and astute reading of any new work you exchanged with him. His evaluations were honest and on point, and he expected the same from you. As I read through these poems, most of which I no doubt saw at one time or another, I am amazed by the breadth of his reading, his knowledge, his adaptability as a poet and his ability to transform inspiration from the hundreds of poems he read, in translation, into brilliant work of his own.  He was largely self-taught and his reading was as voluminous as it was eclectic, ranging from the modern European Masters, to the Middle East to the Far Eastern classics and everything in between. 

His poems were marked by several recurrent themes: visions of ecstasy and desire, deep personification of landscapes that had a deep dreaming quality that transcended what was described.  You feel his suffering, his near blindness (he put out one of his eyes in a mad fit in an attempt to atone for his daughter’s death,) suffering extreme emotional pain as he was totally isolated in the asylum. He was deeply wounded, but not defeated, as his work continually shows. There are love poems here, many written to Ava Hayes, who pressed for, and helped assemble, this collection. It is fair to say that Leo life was defined by a brutal act of violence but was a peaceful, gentle, loving man who was, ultimately, the sum of his contradictions.  His admirable courage, strength and perseverance led to the composition of these remarkable poems and Whitbeck, Hayes, and Leo’s brother, Bill, should be thanked for keeping his dreams alive. A tribute to Leo I wrote after his death sums up my feeling for the man and his work.

The Journey
for Leonard Cirino, r.i.p.

Long winding path through the Pygmy Forest
at rainbow’s end.
A scatter of leaves along the way. 
Up ahead a dog barks for the man to follow. 
Soon the darkness swallows them both.

Michael Estabrook and Wayne Hogan, Geezers, little books press, Post Office Box 842 Cookeville, TN 38503, 2022, No page numbers, roughly 60, dozens of cartons by Hogan, no price listed

If you are a certain age, over 60, you are officially a geezer.  A few years ago, I was having lunch with a high school friend and he showed me his flip phone, “It’s basically a dumb phone. It doesn’t get the Internet. You can text, I guess but I never have, basically all it’s for is receiving and making calls. It’s a geezer phone.” I needed to know where I could get one as it was exactly what I needed. No bells or whistles just the fact ma’am kind of phone. Something a geezer would use. That is the kind of spirit and energy that this collection exudes. Estabrook is in his 70’s and the ageless Hogan, is in his 80’s. While they can occasionally be a trifle rueful, they are always celebrating life and the foibles that make us human. When there is a Mt. Rushmore for Cartoonists Wayne Hogan should be out front along with Roz Chast, B. Kliban, Gary Larson and Berk Breathed.

Scot Young, All Around Cowboy, Spartan Press,, 2021, 130 pages $15-

Young’s poems are about what you would expect of the long-time editor of Rusty Truck online: lean, mean and badassed. There are late night excursions into bars sizing up the leftovers at last call, too much drinking, one-night hookups, I feel so lonesome I could cry, lives.  Daily life is rough shod and plain spoken; a whole lot of keeping on for getting on. Dark humor abounds, astute observations and memorable characterizations.  Easy to read but hard to forget.

Dennis Rush, Mayfield, Dos Madres,, 2022, 47 pages, $18-

Rush’s compelling second book is an on the ground recounting of life before, after, and during a killer tornado. Rush is in Mayfield responding to a call for volunteers to help with the aftermath.  What can be done is minimal as everything is destroyed. Where to begin?  What are the priorities? 

Mayfield is anywhere USA. It is a timeless story told in urgent, but restrained tones.  Rush tries to describe the indescribable. Lives end or are totally rearranged forever in a matter of minutes, people are killed because of corporate insensitivity (Amazon warehouse, a candle factory.)  A sample poem, quoted in full, give the reader a sense of Rush’s book,

The Soul of a Tornado

It confuses the mind
to see destruction without reason.
Without anger.
It looks evil, but there is no evil here.
It’s unfair, but unfairness is not evil.

Don’t try to put a soul into a tornado
and do not place Satan within it,
and do not say that it was missing a soul
as if to imply it should have had one.

Dan Grote, The Sum Total of My Mistakes, between shadows press, 2022 between shadows press po box 394 Denville NJ 07834 12 pages, no price listed, nominal charge sold out now

Although this is, essentially, a pamphlet of 12 poems by incarcerated poet Dan Grote, it’s brevity does not belie the quantity and quality of its message. Grote makes no excuses for his incarcerations: he was guilty as charged and freely admits he did stupid, illegal stuff while under the influence of drugs.  Ultimately, these admittedly bad choices, ruined his life leading to a sentence that will keep him housed in a Graybar Hotel for many years to come.  One of his brief bios for publication describes the poet as the author of several holdup notes.  This author has expanded his horizons by embracing poetry, thanks to the College Guild that sponsors learning programs for prisoners, to save his sanity.

Grote has an untutored voice that he is working hard to improve as the range of these selections shows: a pantoum, a tribute poem to Whitman and one to Bukowski as well. He has insight into the human condition most of us can’t even begin to imagine.  He’s been down and out and chosen a crooked path but he is trying to make the best of a terrible situation. Only a man who has retained his sense of humor in the face of being warehoused can refer to his current state in life as the world’ shittiest writer’s retreat.  As he says in the concluding poem in the collection, “Addict,” “Poetry, much like my other/drug of choice is best/served up one fat line/at a time.”

It's a lonely life behind bars and if you have any interest, he can be contacted at 

R.M. Englehardt, Of Spirit, Ash &Bones Poems Parables, Dead Man’s Press Ink, Available on Amazon, 2022, 111 pages, $22.50 hardback

Englehardt is mostly known as a street poet, in the Bukowski mode, whose work, and book titles, generally reference smoking, bars, booze, and babes. His latest indicates the distinct possibility that he has mellowed with marriage and middle-age. He takes on those tropes but adds a distinctly dystopian flavor to his dark vision of depravity and a society doomed by its own vices. Looking into the future, in the form of a diary, we have a kind of Canticle for Liebowitz of the cantina kind; a liquor order written on a bar napkin is all that survives of a civilization lost. His vision is not exactly The Road kind, but it sure isn’t a happy place. Biblical phrases are evoked, bad moon’s risin’ noted, Bob Dylan’s Kings of Tyrus alluded to, suggesting the merchants of materialism and death are winning and there doesn’t seem to be much anyone can do to stop it.  Sad to say, he might just be right.

Stephen Kuusisto and Ralph James Savarese, Someone Falls Overboard: talking through poems, Nine Mile Magazine, 4451 Cherry Valley Turnpike, Lafayette, NY 13084, 2022, 159 pages, $16-

What do two friends, both disabled but mentally acute and active, do during a pandemic lockdown? They exchange poems, of course. Often as many as eight or ten a day, playing off each other’s language and themes directly. Some poems are laugh out loud funny, others dark and reflective.  What emerges is two engaging personalities doing what they do best under extreme conditions.    

Sarah White, The Poem Has Reasons: A Story of Far Love, Dos Madres Press, 2022, 152 pages, $24

A conglomeration of poetry and prose of a strong woman’s life and loves, in pursuit of Dante, and the female troubadours, told by a clear eyed, strong woman, who knows who she is and isn’t afraid to shows her faults, flex narrative muscles and make wry judgments about herself.  A life story/journey that is both illuminating and enjoyable.

Dos Madres titles are also available on SPD an indispensable clearing house for small press books.

James Duncan, Proper Etiquette in the Slaughterhouse Line, Gutter Snob Books, 200 W. Main Street, Trinidad CO 81082 available on Amazon and from the press through Michele McDannold Magical Jeep Distributing, $13-

Duncan’s book came with a loose fold out handout (mini-chapbook) of five additional poems that continue the cycle of related pieces in this recent release from Gutter Snob. Each copy is signed by the author if you order from the press (highly recommended Amazon has enough money). The tone of these poems is deeply melancholic, as the poet wrestles with serious illness, unhappy relationships, and demeaning work experiences.  Despite the implied negativity, Duncan forges on, refusing to give up or lose hope. 

Two from new press venture Legitimate Business Press, Jen Dunford-Roskos PO Box 253 Seaside Heights, NJ 08751

Michele McDannold, By Plane, Train or Coincidence, Roadside Press, 200 W Main Street, Trinidad CO 81082 available on Amazon and from the press through Michele McDannold Magical Jeep Distributing 2022 108 pages, $15

Originally published by Punk Hostage Press in 2014, this book feels like it could have been written yesterday.  There is an immediacy that comes from the sensation that the poet feels like a stranger in a strange land, so out of place in Oakland that he could be an alien. As the collection proceeds, it is not only Oakland that seems strange but the whole country.  Flash forward eight years and we are now all aliens in a bad movie that might not end well for any of us as if we were the designated victims in some slasher flick or it came from the bottom of the lake horror movie.

The pervading sense of the poems is sadness that often slips over into depression. The sense is that the poet has recently ended a serious relationship and her way of relating to the world has changed.  Her ups moods feel slightly manic and her down ones are where she is at every day.  Eventually we learn that indeed she has ended a relationship but understands, that this is just the way it is now, that we casually hook up and we have to see that for what it was, casual; fun, see you around the quad…The immediacy remains real and the feelings are ones we can all relate to. And so are the poems. This one says it all, quoted in full

what a fuckin’ life, right?

reduced to the
over wires
across time zones

I cannot find
the map
that says

are here.

Donna Snyder, As Meaningful As Any Other, Gutter Snob Books, distributed by, $14.95, illustrated in vivid color by Tezozomoc

Each of the five sections of this multi-layered collection, is a deep song to the earth mother, the creative spirit we all have in common. The spirit is a nurturing one, is the well-spring of art that poetry emerge from. It is also an erotic impulse that Snyder explores with a coming-of-age poem. She discovers music, art, TV and all the multi-varietal stimuli that exists outside of the environment she was raised in which was anything but enlightened. Snyder refers to this process as becoming “aware of the dark.” But as her awareness expands, she understand that this learning and knowing process is an awakening. These poems show just how broad and propulsive this awakening is. Her reconfiguration of Ginsberg’s Howl is both inspired and inventive, in a more modern context; the details may change but the feeling, the message, the sensations are a constant.  Her Quantum Jitters is an inspired rumination about time, space, infinity, and the heat death of the universe morphing into a personal poem then moshing back into a personal reflection of our place in the space time continuum. Iconoclast has a unique perspective on art, creativity, and quantum physics,

“Did Kandinsky know what physicists now say, that matter can be in
two places at once? Schrodinger’s cat both in and outside the box,
both alive and dead. Every dead thing also living in some dimension
or another.”

And in a Fool’s Moon, a poem of ambiguities, dichotomies, and uncertainties “The Dark Side becomes brilliance. Fools stumble through the perception of dark.”

To say As Meaningful As Any Other is vividly illustrated by Tezozomoc, a Los Angeles Xican poet, artist, and philosopher, would be an understatement. Each of the aggressively colored illustrations, appropriately mirror the evolving creative spirit of Snyder’s exquisite work. 

Another equally as productive, intense collaboration of artist and poet would be,

Marjorie Maddox poet, Karen Elias artist, Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For, Shanti Arts, 193 Hillside Road, Brunswick, ME 04011, 2022, 60 pages (21 full color photographs of Elias’s art), $22.95 soft cover

Rarely have two artists, working in their different fields, achieved such a total balance of form, function and harmony of purpose as Maddox and Elias have achieved in this collection. Shanti Arts appears to specialize in these kinds of creative connections as previous titles I have seen by the husband-and-wife team of Jim and Carol McCord exemplify. Here, rather than personal connections with landscapes and “sacred places” that the McCord’s share, Maddox, and Elias explore aspects of the heart. Their work is both literal and metaphorical. Elias captures the essence of a fractured, broken, even diseased heart through photographs of hearts, usually, represented as stones. These stones are cracked, or disfigured, and are seen against diverse backgrounds.

Pandemic quarantines are a major subject for hearts. Loved ones cannot be visited, people are separated, and deep connections become remote ones. There is a mourning song for the earth, the essence of existence, and the environment, our world is depicted as deeply damaged. We see a heart in a window from a distance. This is the quarantine and how the earth is being degraded, locked away, and fractured. Another poem examines the hate in the heart of the policeman who kills and stops the heart of George Floyd accompanied by a black and white image the poem inspired.

Maddox writes movingly of a heart transplant that saves a loved one’s life, of the unknown donor, and these lives that have incongruous connections that are both intimate and remote.  One man dies so that another man may live but what of the life of the deceased donor? And the life of the one who lives on? The heart may be broken, shattered, discarded, or repurposed, but the chain of being goes on in art and in words and in images.  Heartfelt. All of it.

Maddox also has released another book of poetry recently:

Marjorie Maddox, Begin with a Question, Paraclete Press PO Box 1568 Orleans, MA 02653 also available as a kindle book from Amazon.  The work here is clearly devotional, meditative with a religious slant. 

The ultimate artistic/poetic collaboration would be

Joe and Steve Winhusen, C.S. Rafinesque: A Field Guide, Warsaw Project Space, Available on Amazon, 2022, and from Small Press Distribution,154 pages of illustrations with poem overlays, cover price listed at $28-

Essentially this is a book of original artwork (available in various formats on their Etsy shop NaturePicPorcelain) that utilizes the written words as a contextual overlay to the art. What or, rather who, is Rafinesque? There is a brief bio at the end of the book providing a brief overview of an extraordinary career and life that would be unthinkable now.  Apparently Rafinesque was a man interested in everything; a renaissance type who dabbled in nascent field of natural science, collecting an almost inconceivable number of samples and specimens that he wrote voluminously about while in Europe. His fortune made, by the age of 26, he traveled to the US to continue his career only to lose everything but his life, in a shipwreck. Apparently undaunted, he began again establishing a deep tie with a Transylvania University (really) (in PA) continuing his close examination of natural world. His work was so well detailed, he was cited by Darwin in his Origin of Species. (I’ll admit, at first,I was skeptical, thinking this larger-than-life scientist, was a fictional character. They had me at Transylvania so I did some extended research and confirmed the details and much else. I read samples of his work on Kindle) (Robert Lowell references him, as well, not by name, but by his association with Transylvania and his work in his book, Harriet and Lizzie.)

Somewhere along the line Rafinesque took time out from all his study and collecting out of doors, (he hung with Muir and Audubon, among others, though he was disappointed in his attempt to join the Lewis and Clark expedition) to write an epic poem in twenty sections of some 6,100 hundred lines.  I was assured in the text I was examining, people read stuff like that in the mid 1800’s.After a brief perusal of the writing ,and the section titles I assure you no one would want to read it now. Rafinesque was what you could characterize as the ultimate generalist with an elevated sense of self-worth and more than a few eccentricities (he predicted his papers and research would provide untold riches for his heirs but barely covered funeral costs).

You’ll have to forgive me for indulging my love of high order eccentricity, as it is the illustrations rather than the text that is main reason (for me) to read and savor this book. I felt that, at times, the text was nomenclature happy, by which I mean, laden with a leaden kind of “scientific” language that does not feel particularly poetic to me.  Not that the writing isn’t of interest, as it is, as Rafinesque himself is, but sometime less so that it might ordinarily have been. The tone of the story told seems mock heroic, or I should say, humorous; almost indulgent of a man whose intense focus seemed to exclude many of the essential details of life (like showing up in time to teach his classes at Transylvania).

To be fair what Rafinesque attempted and accomplished is quite extraordinary.  In a way it was a Herculean task he undertook, observing, categorizing birds, insects, fauna, all things natural in ways that few people previously have in an accurate manner.  When you have won the respect of peers like Darwin, Audubon, and Muir you have to be considered a success. 

All of the illustrations throughout are exquisite. The second and third sections in particular, of birds in flights, at rest, as specimens, butterflies, plants, well the whole spectrum of natural world, are to be savored. This is a nearly one-of-a-kind collection; I gather the brothers Winhusen collaborated on another lavish collection previously that is also available from Small Press Distribution and another is on the way.

Jendi Reiter, Made Man, Little Red Tree Publishing, 2021, 120 pages, $22.95

Where to begin?  Reiter’s book is such an embarrassment of riches it’s almost impossible to catalog all the gems offered in Made Man.  There are four sections, most with an illustration by Tom Taylor (aka the poet Spiel) of coat hanger men, by which I mean full bodied men in every way except for the head which is a wire hangar. These are out of the closet men whose identities are flexible, are as dependable as a wash and wear suit.  The cover image of one of these men, shows a body in a flex position whose shadows is stretched out to three times its original size on a wall. This is a visual sense that Reiter imparts in words; most of these poems are much more layered and complex than they may seem on the surface, in and out of a closet. Is it the shadow that should interest us most or the body that casts it?  The answer, I suspect, is both.

Early on the poem “Trans Former” gives us a strong sense of the Reiter’s art. The narrative suggests a connection with the Transformer figures that are played with a manipulated and made into something else. What the something else implied is a gender fluidity, where a person may be born one thing and be made into something else.  This theme is echoed throughout the collection in one form or another.  Dark humor abounds, with layered colloquial speech, revealing so much more than the surface appears to show, a dark art the poet Spiel excels at as well. We have self-portrait that don’t feel like self-portraits per se, a kind of sexing the corpse flower, rife with sexual imagery that has to be read several times to be properly savored.

I was drawn by the deeply affecting “Whistler’s White Girl” as it is one of my favorite pieces by him. The fascinating, in a collection of gender fluidity, “What Girls Are.” Opening the next section is “Tired of My Own Vagina” which substitutes vagina for words all through the poem (not the same words) which makes of a vaguely insane, always surrealistic, poignant multiple reading. The unforgettable “The War and Peace of Vegetables” offers the reader a brief history of Tolstoy in terms of vegetables.  “Eggbeater” will assuredly make the reader never see one of those in the same way again much as bent carrots are now forever burned into our subconscious as a kind if penis problem.  My personal favorite section is the third one “American Eclipse which treats us to the “Vince Lombardi Rest Stop” which put me in mind to the Robert Frost Memorial Black Fly Forest rest area in Vermont and Herman Melville Mosquito Haven walk at Arrowhead in MA.  

“93 Minutes of Darkness” should be on everyone’s best poem I’ve read in years top ten list. Reiter details the decline of America in terms of a solar eclipse. Another image burned in my mind is president orange nightmare trying to look into the sun without special eclipse filters though he was told, like everyone else, not to, because it will fry your eyes. You just knew he would. The ordinary rules don’t apply to him.

I would be remiss in not mentioning the classic forms used. I am willing to bet you have never read a Strap-on Ghazal before. I know I haven’t and I read more poetry than just about anyone. This is your big chance to read a Ghazal both like, and unlike, any other you have ever read. In fact, this whole collection is an opportunity to read a poetry collection unlike any other you are likely to read. Like ever.

Brian Shovelton Out with the Bathwater, 2022, 77 pages, price not listed (author may be contacted at

Shovelton’s dedication begins, “This book is for all the people that have fallen along the way.”
It doesn’t take long for the reader to discover that Shovelton was one of those “lost souls” who almost didn’t make it.  He begins by channeling Emma Lazarus though with an altered text, “Give me your tired, your poor, /your helplessly addicted, your hopeless alcoholics…/”. There is quite a bit of primal screaming that sounds like someone who spent way too many nights on the street looking for the Man and howling at the moon. While life had been down and dirty for him, he suggests that we must lie for the day, embrace the light, struggle and, ultimately, find personal Redemption.

The poet takes us on a walking tour of a living hell. All is an illusion; personal freedom is destroyed by a cycle of life that does not rise above the basics of working, consuming, and procreating. Through in a major addiction and you’re up against it all the way.  Fight to escape the cycle, heed to sage advice of Bob Dylan, “don’t follow leaders” find yourself instead, reclaim hope, achieve wisdom. Grim, yes, but his is a life that has found solutions.

Tom Obrzut, The Clouds Come to My Bed, 2022, 115 pages, no price listed.

Tom is a family man.  The cover photo shows his wife, himself, and their two children superimposed against an in-full-bloom tree.  He is devoted to the love of his life, Rebekah, who dies way too young, leaving him bereft.  Without a doubt this book is a grief reaction, an elegy for the beloved that reveals the life they shared.  That said, The Clouds Come to My Bed, is also a celebration of Rebekah’s life and the love that they shared. I can’t imagine a more difficult task as a writer than this one. Remarkably, and it is a rare achievement, the book is nether maudlin nor self-pitying but a supremely human act of love.

Michael Basinski, The Blob, 2021, Model City Books,, unpaginated approx. 70+?,  $10-

The challenge to The Blob is it doesn’t seem to be about anything but it really is. About something. I think.  My first thought, a couple of pages in, went something like this,

The Blob is a strange cross between Pop Art, Extreme Camp meeting experimental writing groups at Finnegans Wake in an Existential Café with musical interludes (of a sort) political satire, horrific puns with a dose of existential dread on the side.”

Another immediate thought was, “This is a disquisition on atomic jello in action.” But these reflections didn’t seem to capture the essence of the piece. I felt in need of guidance from the crew of critics from Mystery Science Theater 3000 but, as far as I can tell, this movie escaped their scrutiny.

I have seen The Blob, several times. What lover of crap movies from the 50’s hasn’t?  After all it is the first feature for matinee idol Steve McQueen, cast as teenager though he was closer to 30 than 17. A lot closer. But it was the 50’s after all, and we’re talking about a glowing, human flesh consuming, escaped from its bowl, amorphous jello thing terrorizing a small town in PA. Did I mention glowing? And throbbing? It’s no Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, but what is?

I decided rather than attempting to make sense of all this, I mean, it’s The Blob, right? How can it even begin to make sense? So, I decided to write down what came to mind as I read:

50’s TV (black and white), Colson Whitehead’s Zombie Apocalypse novel Zone One, early Jonathan Lethem, 50’s TV (and magazines, to a lesser extent) advertisements: the Golden Age of sloganeering and bad grammar, subliminal seduction, memory fragments, brain dumping, Wrong Way Corrigan, Donna Does It (The Soft Porn actress), Survey courses in junk TV/English Lit, Mars Needs Women. Mars Attacks, the card set, the voice, Sumerian mythology Phillip Roth and The Great American Novel-Gil Gamesh, Lou Reed (see junk advertising, “things go better with coke”), Andy Warhola, Shirley Ellis, and The Name Game, (Let’s do Chuck!), Doo Wop, Doo Rag, Da Doo Run Run, Brain Hyland, Hale + Hardy until the blob came along, Supermarket Clean Up waste products etc. etc.

Final Thoughts

Frank O’Hara’s (in)famous Obit said, “He was also a poet.”
Lady Jane is Brit slang for female pudenda.
Mick Jagger wears (wore) a codpiece.  Ever see his old concert videos? Alex du grand lookalike?
Is Ali McGraw even a recognizable name anymore?
If McGraw had a brief scene in The Blob (which I doubt) it would have been the rough equivalent to Michael Palin’s role in Blow Up where he is “seen” dancing in the club after David Hemming’s makes off with the broken guitar pieces from the Yardbird’s gig.
Larry Hagman directed the sequel to The Blob. “The film JR shot.”
No, I haven’t seen it

Charles Rammelkamp, The Field of Happiness, Kelsay Books,, 2022, 152 pages, $19-

One of the great joys of reading a Rammelkamp collection is that you know there is going to be a multiplicity of voices, subject matter, moods, and moments. He is a master of the persona poem. He has authored historic epics on diverse subjects ranging from Mata Hari to Japanese aerial assault on the West Coast of the US during WWII, to William Jennings Bryan.  In the current collection he begins with an ode to happiness that is effectively evoked by Cover artist Gene McCormick’s sunflower.  Hapless Cubs fans achieve glory, after a century of futility, and an obscure (well obscure to anyone who didn’t collect baseball cards in the 50’s the way I did) power hitting Detroit Tiger, Charley Paw Paw Maxwell, is effectively rendered. The light tone of these poems is counterbalanced by the heart stopping “In the Clearing Stands a Boxer” a man who literally fought for his life 200 times in death camps during the Nazi’s reign of terror.  If that poem isn’t on everyone’s 10 best for the year, any year, it is only because they haven’t read it.

There are serious poems, family poems, wry and self-deprecating poems, occasional political poems, historically based poems including a memorable Pushkin fights-a-duel one and well, something for any casual or serious reader of poetry.

Michael Mark, Visiting Her in Queens Is More Enlightening than a Month in a Monastery in Tibet, Rattle,, 2022, 40 pages, A Rattle Chapbook Prize Winner, $6-

The her of the title of Michael Mark’s affecting new chapbook is Estelle, the poet’s mother.
She was in her 90’s, in full dementia mode, with only a tenuous grip on reality.  While her decline is a familiar topic, the poems are strong, devoid of sentimentality, and show a degree of humor you wouldn’t ordinarily expect by such a hopeless situation. Yes, the end is near, the immediate situation is grim but Estelle is full of life. This is both a comfort and an awful realization that while the lights are on, the house (body) is functioning, but nobody he knows is at home.  Most of the time, that is.

His father hangs on after 60 plus years of marriage and says all she wants to do is smooch. That’s good, the poet says. “No, it isn’t, It’s just sad. “What could be more human than that? Then dad at a favorite restaurant ordering a corn beef sandwich he picks apart knowing he can make another sandwich at home, the waitress, packing up the leftovers for him to take home, not taking away the other place setting. And she let him sit there as long as he wants to. I can’t describe how moved I was by this series of images. How moved I still am.

Bonnie Proudfoot, Household Gods, Sheila-Na-Gig Editions 2022, 50 pages, $16-

Bonne Proudfoot has evoked Queens, and the surrounding areas of New York, in all its loveliness and squalor. Anyone who grew up in the early 60’s remembers the shameful story of Kitty Genovese, a young waitress walking home from work who was assaulted and later murdered on the streets of the city while, literally, dozens of people did virtual nothing to save her.  It is a story that will never be forgotten. Her elegy indicated she clearly wants us to remember the story but the surrounding poems want is to remember there is so much more to these neighborhoods than a tragic incident.  She evokes Coney Island beach, the sand dunes, under the boardwalk, and Rye Playlands, just outside the city, among so many other familiar places. She clearly understands that the city is not just amorphous place but a series of distinct, individual neighborhoods with personalities of their own. On one hand it is a coming-of-age story and a remembrance, and on the other hand, it is memorial, a living testament to the places we come from and return to all through our lives.

Tim Hunt, Voice to Voice in the Dark, Broadstone Books, 2022, 112 pages $25 retail, $18.50 direct from publisher

Hunt’s latest book, Voice to Voice in the Dark, evokes the legacy and spirit of the Beats. The collection is divided into three sections with interludes and coda, as a kind of musical arrangement in words. In part one, Poetry for Bread, Hunt offers an evocation to place, a panoramic view of America, especially the West. Nothing says traveling the West like the spoken word pieces of Vachel Lindsay who literally walked the poetry walk, reciting verses, those melodic repetitive musical incantation such as “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Night,” “General Booth Enters into Heaven” and “The Congo.” Vachel Lindsay did this for his daily bread..

“as tonight someone
will open the door to you, a stranger,
and you will glow with poetry,
favoring the bread of it, too
is a poem, their poem
shared for yours, yours for theirs
spirit upon spirit within the spirit.”
From “Vachel Lindsay Walks the Roads of Kansas
Offering Poems for Bread”

There are songs for the open road, a tribute for Walt Whitman and a touching elegy for and unknown, “A Tomb for Melvin, Who Has None.”

The second section is “American Graffiti” which is an intentional association with the movie depicting a time far away and long ago when life was simpler and could be reduced to being part of the in crowd or not, one of the gang, or not, the owner of a hot rod or not. We are on the cusp of an age: from “Rebel Without a Cause” to “American Graffiti” to what? Maybe “Apocalypse Now!” The music is louder, more raucous, the lyrics are more dangerous, fraught, and then we are drafted. The innocence becomes experience.  Like the Lucas movie, the poems are colorful, show a callow youth growing up in CA, and coming of age much as America was coming of age.

Section three is a kind of oral history. Stories of past generations being told and passed along so that the subjects of the tales will not be completely lost.  These are family stories, war stories, generational sagas; the particulars of the tales vary but the subjects are the same, and the impulse is constant.  Hunt’s tribute/elegy to the old Beat John Clellon Holmes best exemplifies this spirit.

 Hunt recounts all the things he had lost over the years like his grandfather’s pocket knife, a thing of sentimental value, like so many other misplaced objects of no intrinsic value. The one thing he never lost was the poem Holmes sent him from his death bed, written in the waning of life, as darkness settling on Holmes in his small room. The poem links Hunt to the past, the literary generation Holmes was a part of. It is a spiritual connection, a deep human connection. “Hush now,” Hunt says at poem’s end. Rest easy. Buy this book

PW Covington, malepoet. Gnashing Teeth Publishing. 2021, 140 pages, $12.50. Also available on Amazon price varies.

Covington describes a Route 66 kind of journey into the heart of American roadside/ divebar culture of garage bands, poetry readings, of honky-tonk angels and buckaroo bonsai cowboys.  He is unabashedly male but there’s more to it than a macho pose one might expect.  He is more of a Beat poet than a drunk-on-your-ass bar poet, and has the sensibility of his forerunners in the On the Road gang from the 50’s and the 60’s.  The inspired cover suggests an outtake from the Barfly movie or the Hard case Bodice Ripper art, but the closer you look, you can see the hot babe with the tats, as with one of Covington’s previous books (77901) with a lit cigarette and faraway look, is actually a mannequin. Maybe nothing is as it seems. Maybe not even Covington.

Christopher Locke, Music for Ghosts, NYQ Books,, 2022, 77 pages, $18.95. Also
available from

There is a special kind of pain the breakup of marriage inflicts upon the family.  Locke explores, in depth, how the attempt to remain together for the sake of the children fails. The severing of connections these deeply personal poems explore is not limited to seeing his wife set off to visit her lover, but a brother who does young, perhaps in a drug related way, as well. While these poems are often grim, afflicted with an undercurrent of omnipresent pain, there is a strong narrative sense, an ability to make what is personal, universal. And there is his beloved daughters Sophie and Grace, two reasons to keep on living, creating, loving.

Eleanor Swanson, Non Finito, Fernwood Press,, 2022, 99 pages, $17.95

The preface to Swanson’s book offers a brief suggestion of what “non-finito” is.  As Swanson explains it is “borrowed from the language of art, “non-finito” invokes a fascination with unresolved and open-ended occurrences and events.” Unfinished does not necessarily mean incomplete or unfulfilled. As I read a statement by Gilbert Sorrentino made with regard to one if his books, The Perfect Fiction, that the perfect fiction is, of course, reality, came to mind. The unfinished, in terms of Swanson’s book, is life.  Species may become extinct: mammoths, mastodon, dodo birds, passenger pigeons, but not the horseshoe crab; that may seem like the end of something is actually the beginning of something else.

On the recurring theme of extinction, the poem “Extinction: Painted” brought to mind something other than Audubon (who must be remembered killed the subjects of his exquisite drawings), but something by George Catlin (no relation).  A painting of Catlin’s, part of a series and not ordinarily shown in the Memorial Art Museum in Rochester, is his “Shooting the Flamingoes.”  It is one of the first, if not the first, instance of product placement. The series of paintings was commissioned by the Colt gun manufacturers to shows hunters what an effective killing machine their new repeating rifle was. We see hunters blasting away at a herd of flamingoes, slaughtering untold numbers of the flock. Ironically, I assume, part of the artist’s description of the process of the painting, was the magnificent of the birds, the lush richness of the pinks and the green of the surroundings where they had perched and then…It remains one of the most horrific works of art I have ever seen and suggests that perhaps George Catlin was a man ahead of his time.

Swanson’s exquisite poems never descend to this grotesque level but, instead, venerate the lives, the aspirations, the creations of man while singing hymns of praise for the vast multitude of our earth.  These are poems that are as good as poems need to be with nary a word wasted nor an extra one added for effect. There are historical poems here, (not the least of which is “The Day Jerry Garcia Died”) “nature poems,” art poems and much more. Was Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony really unfinished or just incomplete? The feeling is, what we have is complete in and of itself and it is enough to dwell on what we have instead of speculating about what can never be, a sentiment close to the heart of Non Finito.

Amy Barone, Defying Extinction, Broadstone Books,, 2022, 88 pages, $18.50, directly from the publisher or

By contrast with Barone’s previous book, We Become Summer, one that was largely domestic in that she lovingly portrayed the vicissitudes family life, Defying Extinction, is an omnibus.  Locales include the Dominican Republic, Bermuda, the Great Barrier Reef, and the heavens above. All are scrutinized with care. These are Barone’s sacred places and her scope is boundless. A description from “Rest Stop” in Kruger National Park shows the expansiveness of Barone’s poetic vision,

“Grinning penguins pose, safe from zoos and loud tourists.
Birds in exotic blue and orange feathers strut.

A rainbow crisscrosses Victoria Falls.”

Further on in The Wild, she describes a tree ghost,

A creature without a strong star,
but I thought that mattered little.
His silent amber eyes compensate.”

Throughout the collection Barone’s language is economical, precise, and evocative. More persona reflections are evident during the Heirlooms and then the Love and family sections which recalls the aforementioned previous collection. Her exquisite poem, “Facts of Life and Soap Operas” is a classic and worth the price of the book, in my opinion.  Those same soap operas were a major part of my childhood as well, and it never ceased to amaze me, that you could miss months of episodes, and with a brief update, pick up the story in ways similar to family updates at holiday gatherings and feel as if you hadn’t missed a beat. (For those of us from the pre-internet, instant communication/ information age).

Barone’s range is impressive. I was amused by her “Lessons” and her similarities with another, apparently a male “love interest” who we learn is the Latin poet Catullus, and his tortured relationship with the now mythic, Lesbia.  “Blood Orange Says” is a touching Covid elegy, a piece that touches all of us who lived through the ongoing plague years. Throughout Defying Extinction” Barone’s insights and descriptions delight the reader. We feel as if we know and have known her for years as the best kind of familiar a person could want.

Allison Thorpe, Reckless Pilgrims, Broadstone Books,  2022, 94 pages, $24.50 paper

Reckless Pilgrims is a book of absence.  The poet lives on the farm she and her husband had occupied and tended. He passes on, but the poet remains among all the relics of their lives together feeling the weight of his no longer being there. Two poems in particular present a moving portrait of a woman alone.

The first is her aging dog mistaking an appliance repairman for his master. He approaches the man, tail wagging only to see that he is mistaken. His disappointment is palpable. Recognizing the moment, the poet knows exactly how their dog feels. Yes, the moment is small, and hardly momentous, in the larger scheme of things, but it such a deep connection established and then removed; it is deeply moving. I am reminded of a “lesser” painting by Turner of a dog, on a beach staring out to sea where he last saw his master, a sailor departing on a voyage.  It is a simple moment but the sense of loss is so great, the moment transcends the image.  Similarly, the poet is meant to feel like an object when a repairman comes to fix a broken window, “You the Widder Woman?” He asks by way of greeting, knowing full well that she is. A brief monologue interspersed with her thoughts and his increasingly demeaning statements and observations, “Little lady like you//should have a man around/for stuff like this.” The way he looks at her, sexually evaluating her, the double entendre all make her feel belittled, objectified, worthless without the man she misses and yearns for. The collection culminated with a brief peaen, a prayer to old things, objects with special meaning, moment of togetherness, “May we find value in what we are/Not in what we lack.”  Amen.

David Chorlton, Poetry Mountain, Cholla Needles Art,, 2022, 96 pages, $6- on Amazon.

In the manner of his rich collections as The Inner Mountain and Unmapped Worlds, Chorlton writes nature poems that transcend the landscape.  They evoke the plac viewed from his home at the edge of the desert in Phoenix and delve much deeper into the spirit worlds that lies within ourselves and the landscape. Poetry Mountain reflect the poet’s need for a spiritual and emotional healing after a traumatic personal lost and an equally, life threatening, personal injury.  As one reads these exquisite poems, he feels drawn into an inner landscape as an immersive experience that takes one see the world anew in a deeper, richer light.

Kevin Ridgeway, Invasion of the Shadow People, Luchador Press, 2022, 146 pages, $15-

Kevin checks all the boxes under the designation of: My Dysfunctional Life. His dad was a serial bank robber in support of his drug habit, someone to share weed, beers and breaking and entering tools with, who eventually went down for life as a three-time loser. His single parenting mom did her best but life was never easy and she died early also. Kevin developed the bad habits of his dad: substance abuse, disdain for authority, and has been in and out of jail and various rehab and mental health facilities for his ongoing battle with bipolar issues. His early marriage was ill-advised and ended in divorce, a later girlfriend drank herself to death; long term relationships were difficult to form and generally proved hazardous to his heath. And through all this Kevin has managed to create poetry, a solid body of work, from all this chaos. If that isn’t an accomplishment, I don’t know what is.

Scott Ferry, The Long Blade of Days Ahead, Impspired,, 2022, 123 pages, $9.99

In his previous collection with Impspired, Scott spoke of his issues with alcohol and how it affected his relationships, especially with those closest to him. These issues have been resolved and he has renewed his dedication to what is of primary importance to him; his domestic life with wife and two children along with helping other people as an RN.  One apparently unresolvable relationship was the extremely difficult one he had with his father. Perhaps it is sensitivity to how his own life was colored by an unloving, off-putting parent, that is the primary motivation for his sensitivity to the impressions made on his own children. The second and third sections, in particular, read like diary entries of daily life; his watching as his young son learns to see the world, to gain knowledge of the vast universe outside the self and they are a joy to read.

A.D. Winans, cityscapes: a quilt of poetry, Cold River Press,, 2022, 74 pages, $12

A.D. Winans is the reigning dean of the North Beach poets. He was a close friend to Jack Michele, Bob Kaufmann and with Bukowski. If there was something literary happening in the area, Winans was a part of it.  Now well into his 80’s, a retrospective of those times is to be expected and readers will not be disappointed to learn this is the collection amply meets the bill. Ranging from his early days in San Francisco, reading, drinking, writing, loving, and hanging out with the luminaries of the age, are all represented. His years in the service are detailed and later days looking back with a practiced eye and a familiar voice. If you are new to Winans, this is a great book to begin the exploration of the world of a seminal narrative writer who saw it all, did it all, and lived to tell the tale. If you are a faithful, long-time reader, such as myself, the joy of renewing that acquaintance, is a distinct pleasure to be savored as a vintage spirit. 


Laurie Blauner, I Was One of My Memories, (essays), Pank Books, contact at 2021, 168 pages, $18-, winner of the Pank Nonfiction Book Contest also available through

I’ve been an enthusiastic reader of Blauner’s books ever since finding a couple of her early novels at the local public library. (When libraries actually bought books outside of the typical large press stuff. Those were the days!) I learned she also was an excellent innovative poet whose work has appeared in this journal many times and whose books have been enthusiastically reviewed. I was anxious to see how she approached the essay form. She had indicated that essays were a new form that she was experimenting with trying to find what the limits were and what could be done with this surprisingly flexible form. What she has delivered in these brief, but illuminating pieces, is something that is both intensely personal and also a brilliant comment on essay writing itself.

The spirit of her reluctant companion cat Cyrus is evoked throughout the collection. He was a reluctant stray who was adopted and, like all cats, a highly inflexible sort, with a standoffish personality, who could be, and often was, a good companion. Though he is gone in flesh, Cyrus is a kind of spirit guide throughout the slow reveal of Blauner’s difficult relationship with her mother, a woman who appears completely self-involved and often willfully delusional. Her mother was, and is, an extremely difficult person. You could say so difficult that only a child, or an equally as deluded significant other, could stand being with her, much less, love her. Blauner has long ago given up trying to change or reason with her. She, and her fellow care giver, her sister, have accepted the fact she is a hopelessly crusty old woman, totally set in her extremely perverse ways and resistant to reasonable solutions to any and all care giving options. In addition to the personality conflicts, Blauner’s share of the caregiving role is exacerbated by geographical separation; Laurie lives in Seattle and mom lives in NYC. 

As I read these essays of fraught parent, children relationships, the autobiographical novels of Edward St Aubyn, The Peter Melrose series, came to mind.  Melrose’s mother was willfully blind to horrors her sadistic husband inflicted upon their son. She was “above it all” much as another series of memoirs about strained parental relationships by Alexandra Fuller. Her mother refused to admit her alcoholic, racist behaviors, and her husband’s in South Africa, were normal behavior they were entitled to as white British citizens among the black indigenous races.  Blauner’s mother may not have reached the epic dimensions of these mothers from hell, but she seems to be on the same wave length; I am what I am and I’d what I do because it is who I am. Like it or hate it, doesn’t matter to me.

Laurie does not spare herself in these narratives. Her failed, ill-advised, early marriage causes great pain for all involved. A second more successful, ongoing one, is stable and productive as a livable arrangement is sought and maintained.  During and after the first marriage there were bouts of substance abuse as well as inconstancy, then guilt with regard to her less than charitable behavior. Each essay is self-contained but builds and amplifies what has come before and sets a base for what follows after, with her faithful Cyrus by her side.

Laurie manages to find ways to make a form flexible in ways I hadn’t thought of before. There are no rigid rules of exposition here, just fascinating ways of technically, stretching the form. The “How Laurie Does It,” became an extra dimension for me as much as the always fascinating content.  Regardless of what you turn to a collection of personal essays for, I Was One of My Memories, is one that should not be missed.

Jeremy Hight, easy and clear, Gutter Snob Books,, 2022, 44 pages, $13

Some of these brief, flash fiction, fall under the heading of inspired. The ones that work best for deal with what if literary subjects such as what if Gregor Samsa had Alexa as a conversational partner? What would their conversation sound like? A lot of, “I can’t answer that question “but a whole lot more that she can answer in a literal and totally inappropriate way.  What if Donnie Darko was told as a Self Help book instead of quasi sci fi story with wormholes, alternative universes, and a multitude of endings? How about Borges’ Labyrinths told as a Tinder Profile?  Or The Shining as a Disney story?  Get the picture?  They don’t all work for me but enough to make this collection a must read for anyone who appreciates literate parody.  Unfortunately, Hight passed away before this book was printed though he left behind a witty legacy.

Recommended not reviewed

Sarah Ruhl, Love Poems in Quarantine, Copper Canyon Press,, 2022, 163 pages, $16- Intimate, funny, rueful, brief meditations

Ocean Vuong, Time Is a Mother, Penguin Random House,, 2022, 114 pages, Hardcover $24 Vuong takes a huge step forward with this book which is really saying something. His narratives feel more personal (if possible), less cluttered with needless abstractions that has lessened the overall effect of previous work. Bravo.

Ada Limon, The Hurting Kind, Milkweed Editions,, 2022, 100 pages hardcover, $22 The most recent collection of a national treasure and recently selected poet laureate.

Scott Pariseau, Along the Way: Collected Poems & Prose, Rain Mountain Press,, 2022, 85 pages, $18-

Mai Der Vang, Yellow Rain, Graywolf Press,
2021, 202 pages, paperback $17- Shattering details of the US Army’s devastating chemical attacks during the Vietnam war, against the Hmong people, and subsequent coverup, told in personal terms.

Mark Wunderlich, God of Nothingness, Graywolf Press,, 2021, 86 pages, $16-

Daisy Fried, The Year the City Emptied, Flood Editions, Flood Editions,
2022, 55 pages, $15.95   Elegiac, pandemic, the loss of a husband, after Baudelaire, masterfully told with a controlled, measured voice.

Lawrence Raab, April at the Ruins, Tupelo Press,, 2022, 93 pages,
95 Assured, often dark, sometimes wry, uniformly excellent poetry

Solmaz Sharif, Customs, Graywolf Press,, 2022, 86 pages, $16- Intensely personal, deeply affecting poetry from a refugee escaping totalitarian military governments facing the difficulties of a life in a new country. A former finalist for National Book Award for good reason.

Kristen Lucia Renzi, Saudade for a Breaking Heart, Dos Madres,, 2022, 65 pages, $18.  Lyrical, poignant, funny, sexy, sad, literary, personal…What more could you want from a book of poems?  In my unofficial ten best books of 2022 this one rates near the top.

Bianca Stone, What Is Otherwise Infinite, Tin House, 2022, 115 pages, $16.95 Intensely lyrical, always energetic, sometimes mind-blowing, and more restrained than past collections. Stone scores big with this collection proving once again that the family gift of great poetry is thriving.

Amorak Huey, Boom Box, Sundress Publications, 2019, 81 pages, $16.  Huey scores once again, with dazzling wit, humor, and unusual congruities proves that there is life after small town nowhere in the South upbringing.

Tony Hoagland, Turn Up the Ocean, Graywolf Press,, 2022, 86 pages, $15.99 A last taste of a much-lamented highly respected poet.

Maayan Eitan, Love, Penguin Press,, 2022, 101 pages, hardbound, $20 A lyrical evocative look inside the mind of a sex worker in Israel. Meditative, deeply felt and rendered story easily read in one sitting. Unforgettable. A novel though with highly poetic language.

J. R. Solonche, The Lost Notebooks of Zhao Li, Dos Madres Press, 2022, 74 pages, $19- Pithy poems in a glib, amusing, witty, wise, and artful way in the manner of the classic Chinese poets. Grab a cup of herb tea or one of rice wine, and enjoy.

Virginia Aronson, Little Smiling Hooks, Cyberwit, , 2022, 61 pages, $15- Also available on Amazon. Aronson’s Sylvia Plath is not just another suicide blonde collection but an in depth, astute observation, of the poet’s life and work.  As the introductory quote says, “The blood jet is poetry, /There is no stopping it.”

Rusty Barnes, Dear So and So, Gutter Snob Books, , 2022, 30 pages, $13. Check out all Gutter Snob books at Magical Jeep Distribution All the poems in this collection began Dear So and So.  So and So has many forms, from beloved, to antagonist to well, a so and so.

John Dorsey, Maple Leaf Zen, Crisis Chronicles, 2022, 125 pages, $12. Each poem is a series of erasure from the work of hereto unknown to me New Orleans poet, Everette Maddox. By the titles Dorsey erases from, he was quite the character. As Dorsey says, “Some of these pieces were easy, some were hard, some are good, some are bad, but I tried….”

Victoria Chang, The Trees Witness Everything, Copper Canyon Press,, 2022, 125 pages, $17.  The only quibble I have with this otherwise absolutely brilliant, affecting, work is the format. It is long and skinny and very difficult to hold in your hands, that is to read. I don’t know whose idea it was to do this but it was a mistake. Otherwise….

Elaine S Nussbaum, Blood Moon, The Poetry Box,, 44 pages, $14. We were all these, in a lockdown during the plague. Nussbaum’s poems are a kind of diary of her thoughts and experiences of that time. I found that my lyrical gift deserted me, though not my desire to write which manifested itself in other unconventional ways, Nussbaum’s lyrical gift was strong, affecting, and clear sighted.  Lucky for us.  

Peter Balakian, No Sign, Phoenix Books, University of Chicago Press,, 2022, hardcover, $20. Anyone familiar with Balakian’s work will know what to expect: somewhere the atrocities committed against his people, The Armenians, by the Turks will be lurking in the back of everything he does and thinks.  As always, his voice is assured, poignant, personal, and brilliant.


Savoring the Elements: Poetry and Prose from the Natural World, edited by Walt McLaughlin,
Wood Thrush Books, Wood Thrush Books, 27 Maple Grove Estates, Swanton, VT 05488, 2022, 138 pages, $14.95.

As the title suggests this collection is packed with writing from the natural world in all tis glories and wildness.  Poets represented include Stuart Bartow, Stephen Lewandowski, Alan Casline, Alan Catlin, Helen Ruggeri, T.K. Splake and Clarence Wolfshohl as well as many others known and not so well known.  Prose selection from the editor’s latest book Wildness and Being Human and Ruggieri’s Camping in the Galaxy are featured as well as one from Scott King to who passed away before the book was fully assembled and to whom it is dedicated.  The writing is eclectic and personal and should be of interest to abroad audience of reader’s interested in the subject.

Big Hammer #22 ed Dave Roskos, Iniquity Press/ Vendetta Boks PO Box 253 Seaside Heights, NJ 08751, 2022, 190 pages, $15-  

Back numbers of Big Hammer and Street Value available free from Bigassed coffee table sized anthology of small press poets known, not so well known and should be known better, living ones and dead ones too. Aptly and amply illustrated by our favorite college artists Jen Dunford Roskos, Angela Mark and Michael Shores. 

Alien Buddha #41  Available on Amazon.  Roughly once a month editor Red Focks releases a large anthology, sometimes themed, sometimes not, often premiering selections of books and chapbooks from the press. These anthologies generally run around 170 pages as these does, though occasionally some are smaller, often much larger.  Subscriptions for the zine are available on a yearly basis for $65 and now bundles of recent book releases for $55.  Each issue features rising small press poets and veteran ones.  Especially of interest in this issue were prose and poem previews by Richard Cronenborg and selections of stunning and often sexy prose poems by Rickey Rivers Jr.   

Voices from the Fire, Mike Zone ed, Dumpster Fire Press, available from Amazon, 2022, 102 pages, $9.95.

Mike Zone has put together a strong series of anthologies, usually themed on contemporary subjects. These are strong vices screaming in the burning cities, surrounded by dumpster fires and no one is happy about it.  There are full color graphics, always eye catching and a major plus along with small press poets galore and some prose as well.  Small press veteran poet and editor has a selection of poem well worth checking out and James Kelley has a generous selection of hard-hitting poems. There are no losers here. Full disclosure, I have several poems in this issue. The next huge issue is Guns, Gods, Greed, and Glory may be the last (at least for a while). Don’t miss it!

Chiron Review ed Michael Hathaway and associates,, 4 issues a year $49 Issue #127, 180 pages plus

The three issues I have seen thus far in 2022 have all been retrospective issues. #125 was a Best of Kindred Spirit, forerunner to Chiron anthologies Hathaway produces now.  #126 was a retrospective tribute to Vietnam poetry throughout the Kindred Spirit, Chiron Review years including reviews of books, several interviews, photos, well, you name it. The current issue is Remembering Gerald Locklin, a loving tribute by friends and contemporaries of the prolific poet/prose writer, teacher, who was the long-time poetry editor for Michael’s publications. 

Last, but not least, the Biannual Splake Compendium

camp baraga ghosts, 2022, 36 pages, $15

A photo and poem essay on a prison camp that no longer exists. Splake evokes the spirit of the detained, the loneliness, the wreckage of lives left behind, here there, everywhere as relics; ghosts.

april bay ice
long white season lingering
smelt still in deep water

piney woods poems,  2022, 32 pages, $15

For many years Splake has kept a Richard Brautigan shrine in the woods near where he lives in the UP; prayer flags, Brautigan books tacked to a tree exposed to the elements, excerpts from Brautigan book and the like. The aging poet’s arthritis has made the trip there no longer feasible and this collection reflects upon the last visit to this place, and on his life and work. 

beyond the rainbow

bloody dark feathers
white bone of broken wing
black empty eyes


poet on fire

light forest breeze
turning embers to flame
words never extinguished

 prayer flag blues, Transcendent Zero Press,, 2022 roughly 32 pages, $9 intro by Dustin Pickering

In these personal poems, splake gives the reader insight into the large looming background of the declining American Empire as well as the insights concerning his own history. He recalls these moments in the present—as if they are still happening—making a poetic miracle of the semblance of truth residing in moments.  D Pickering

poet like spider
quietly weaving invisible web
collecting others lives


morning facing broken mirror
surveying different personalities
choosing one for today

lightness of being, Shoe Music Press,, available on Amazon. 154 pages, $17.97 hardcover

lightness of being is a bold brave look into the psyche of the poet who always faces the cold reality of the subject matter at hand yet in-jects his own lightness into it. He speaks of modern existence with a timelessness that transcends the material and forms a domain of its own in which the darkness and light can exist in the same breath. Gordon Purkis editor of Shoe Music Press.

A signature collection of Splake’s three-line poems, one per page

poet’s lightness of being
floating in meteor shower
lost in northern lights