Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Wandering Hermit Review


Now that shameful self promotion is out of my system for awhile, I want to talk about an excellent literary journal. Editor Steve Potter originally planned to feature writers and poets from the Pacific Northwest. That vision soon expanded to include submissions world wide.

Early press releases about The Wandering Hermit Review led me to expect a journal loaded with talented writers and artists and I wasn't disappointed. Potter promised a journal featuring the work of new and established names from around the world and he delivered. This digest size, perfect bound journal arrived in my mailbox with a full color cover, featuring 65 artists and poets of all ages and every walk of life. I spent more than a week reading and absorbing the journal content, it was that good.

I started with visual arts scattered throughout the journal, simply because the concept intrigued me. Featured were a print reminiscent of an old tintype by Fernando Aguiar; three breathtaking portraits painted by Suzanne Brooker; and a cryptic photograph by Alan Sondheim.

Poetry includes examples of bilingual translations, avant garde, free verse, metaphysical, allegorical, phantasmagorical, modern sonnets, pantoums, and more. Featured prose ranges from poetic to triumphant or humorous. Readers will find the work of established literary names along with undiscovered gems in this edition and those that follow.

The Wandering Hermit Review is issued in April and September. Individual issues are $10. By subscription, two issues for $18.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

An exciting change of pace...

The word came yesterday that I am scheduled to be interviewed on PBS TV in State College PA on February 23rd. Now is that exciting, or what? I've never been on TV, and this is LIVE TV. I joke a lot about shameless self-promotion, but actually my way of doing things is just the opposite. I actively seek a reclusive lifestyle and would prefer being a wealthy eccentric hiding in my mansion. There are two things missing out of that scenario: wealth and a mansion. The eccentric part I have down pat. Tips have ranged from just be yourself and let your personality shine through to don't wear any bright patterned clothes, just stick with slimming colors. Hmm. What colors would be slimming enough to help me blend into the background? I'm to talk about my latest book, My Name is Esther Clara and the producer suggested I read a brief passage on air.

Then after that exciting news, a Director of Nursing I know called and asked if I would be available for a book signing related to my short story included in Cup of Comfort for Nurses. This is a popular series, and I'm still shocked that one of my stories was accepted into the anthology for nurses. If the plans materialize, the book signing will be in April.

Wish me luck for both events. Over the next few months, life will certainly be exciting for this old writer / recluse.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Poetry publishing and unknown poets


I'm a novice where poetry is concerned. That is, I haven't studied the art of writing poetry but have been reading and writing it for years. Finding a publisher for poetry books is an arduous process, even for established poets. Thanks to Winterwolf Publishing my first book of poetry is reality.

I was a "dabbler" in poetry when Stephen Sulik asked if I'd be interested in creating a book together. Stephen and I have never met. I reviewed a prose book he wrote, and we exchanged a few emails about our history as writers. He'd had a book of poetry published in the 1970s. Stephen is a retired Texas cop, a family man who values his privacy. I decided to give our joint venture a shot. Stephen already had a concept in mind: his poetry would be harsh, representing the masculine point of view as a policeman who has seen humanity at its worst; mine would be soft, feminine, sweet. Well, after reading my poety he had to scuttle his concept and come up with a new approach. My poetry is often harsh, rageful, based on life experience in childhood. Most of Stephen's poetry is sweet natured, surreal or dreamy. Unlike my childhood at the mercy of an alcoholic father, his was nurturing and safe. Color of Laughter, Color of Tears presents a diverse picture of life from two very different viewpoints.

Poets laureate around the country won't need to worry about Johnson and Sulik usurping them. Once our individual fan bases bought copies of our book or received them as gifts, sales plummeted. Stephen's fans loved his poetry and hated mine. Most of my fans love everything I write and hope I'll complete a book of only my poetry soon. Meanwhile, against prevailing odds, the book we co-authored together is a reality.

The purpose of this blog is not shameless self promotion. The point I wish to make is: Keep reading and writing poetry. It's an honest expression of feelings that often can't be expressed effectively any other way. I love poetry and appreciate poets. If you write poetry and have no luck at all getting it published, consider submitting to online journals. I have several listed in my links. And I'd love to know when your poetry is accepted.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Literacy, Libraries, and Other Ramblings

When I was a kid, my mother couldn't afford much in the way of activities. Saturday afternoon movies cost a quarter or fifty cents. The swimming pool cost a dollar per visit. But a library card was free. Reading was free. I spent many afternoons in summer reading at the library, which was located in the upper story of an old building on main street, up a steep flight of stairs. I devoured books as a child and youth, traveling the world of words and living adventures with heroic characters: Freckles; Girl of the Limberlost; Little Women; Robinson Crusoe. And I'd check out as many books as the librarian would allow, then sit at home with my nose in a book for hours. I wasn't exactly a couch potato. I played outside with my siblings and neighbor kids, but reading was my favorite pastime. I eventually graduated to Anna Karenina; The Brothers Karamazov; Wuthering Heights; Lady in the Lake; Laura, and other adult classics.

As a clumsy, homely kid who wore thick glasses from age four, words were my friends. Words did not poke fun or turn on me. Words could transform the reader into anything he or she dreamed of being -- beautiful or handsome, brave, adventuresome -- and introduce worlds we might never see otherwise.

After a lifetime of reading, I find it strange that the classics read as a child and young adult are still the only classics I can remember. Where are the new classics? I can't think of any that stayed in my mind. Have I lost touch? Can anyone refresh my memory?

Libraries were wondrous places when I was a child and still are today. Even in remote rural areas, tiny towns have libraries that offer internet access and a myriad of beneficial services. I've been thinking lately how rewarding it would be to work in a library, to share somehow in promoting literacy and my love of reading. I've been a Registered Nurse, medical transcriptionist, writer, and reviewer. In my next job, I want to be a library worker bee.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Poetry, Politics, Poverty Two

A respected friend gently reprimanded me today for saying that dissenting voices have no impact on poverty or politics. He said those with the courage to protest against the status quo should be encouraged, not discouraged. So I will backwater a bit, and temper my normal cynicism. It could be entirely possible that voices more accomplished and resonant than mine have penetrated walls of iron and stone or reached high into privileged ivory towers. At least I hope so.

In the last year I've reviewed several excellent poetry books or antholgies about war, politics, and poverty. Poets have strong feelings about past, present, and future injustice, cruelty, politicians, and inhumanity. Some are shunned for their outspoken truths and pay a huge price for it. Critics and peers may laud them as prizes and honors go elsewhere. Some are labeled peaceniks and dismissed by those whose livelihoods depend on state or federal largesse. I can understand the label "commie pinko" being less than helpful to a poet's success, but peacenik? Peace may not be as profitable as war, but most of us believe it's a good thing and wish to see more of it.

So today I must apologize to poets around the world who raise their voices singly or collectively against all forms of inhumanity and injustice. Every poet who touches even one heart and each poem that stuns even one reader to silence should be celebrated. Poets whose work I reviewed and praised for your courage know who you are. This is my public salute to those I know and those I've yet to meet.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Nisqually Delta Review

I've never traveled much but the Pacific Northwest is one area on my wishlist. I enjoy the Nisqually Delta Review because it originates in a beautiful area of Washington State, and I admire the editor's poetry and art. The NDR editor's name is familiar to formalist and haiku poetry circles: CarrieAnn Thunell. Through her own poetry and art, and the poems of featured poets, Ms. Thunell shares the wonders of nature around her.

Now I'll be honest. My ability to create formal poetry and haiku leaves much to be desired, although I enjoy reading them both. I'm thankful that somewhere between the first and second edition of NDR, Ms. Thunell decided to accept submissions of free form poetry. Now poets like Tom Sheehan and me :) have a chance at being featured poets too, along with those accomplished in haiku and formalist styles.

I haven't seen the Second Edition yet but the first was a standout. The poetry was of varied styles and well worth reading, and the pen and ink drawings a pleasant bonus. Ms. Thunell is still publishing on a shoestring so can't afford to give complimentary copies to submitting poets. I'm hoping that will change as her subscription base grows. Anyone interested in submitting or subscribing to NDR should check the website at: http://nisquallydeltareview.bravehost.com/ and see what you think.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Shadow Poetry, Haiku, Senryu -- OH MY!!

I'm not certain if poetry is regaining popularity, or if I'm simply more aware of poetry. Back in the dark ages when I was a high school student, reading and studying the classic poets was required. I learned to love classic poetry back then. That interest continued in college English, and then reality set in. Just about everyone reading this blog will identify with that reality. I got a job, became embroiled in earning a living and paying the ever-present bills, got married and created more bills. For many years, poetry and my appreciation of it was very far down on the list of priorities. Then came retirement, my golden years of rediscovering those early interests in poetry and prose.

I can't remember how Shadow Poetry and SP Quill were discovered. Maybe one of the poets whose work I reviewed said, "You should check out Shadow Poetry and submit poetry reviews to them." Whatever or whoever encouraged the association, I'm grateful. Shadow Poetry has a very appealing website, rich with poetry submitted from around the world. Poetry contests are ongoing and their chapbooks are quite esthetically pleasing. SP Quill is a hard copy journal published by the editor of Shadow Poetry. Editor Marie Summers, assisted by her husband James, releases this journal quarterly. (She is a fine poet in her own right.) My poetry reviews are featured in SP Quill and I've discovered several wonderful poets through my association with this group.

SP Quill features formalist poetry, free form, and haiku. So many writers accomplished in haiku and senryu submitted to SP Quill that Summers introduced a new hard copy journal, White Lotus. My curiosity about and appreciation of haiku is a direct result of reading White Lotus. Both cover and contents are soothing, pleasing, and beautifully rendered, in keeping with the spirit of haiku.

As a bonus, both journals published by Shadow Poetry feature excellent pen and ink drawings pertinent to content. You can learn more about both journals and the poets featured in them at www.shadowpoetry.com.

I believe the interest in poetry is making a comeback. The recent increase in new poetry journals is evidence of that resurgence. I enjoy thinking that hidden in the pages of these journals might be our generation's Plath, Coleridge, Longfellow, or Browning. My next few blogs will introduce journals I consider noteworthy. Most feature my reviews or my poetry or both, but tooting my horn is not the purpose here. My purpose is to introduce poetry readers and poets to journals they might not discover otherwise.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Fourth book in hand



My author copies arrived last week. That's always a happy occasion, the frosting on a writer's cake, to hold a finished product in both hands. It looked good inside and out. I always have an odd feeling, wondering how on earth my manuscript finally made it to reality. The book is listed on Dandelion and Barnes and Noble websites, but last time I checked it hadn't made it to Amazon. Once a book is listed for sale, that also helps convince me it's real.

As a writer I try to make each book different from the last. I like writing in different genres and trying to make the book interesting, regardless of topic. This book about my maternal grandmother's life was a real challenge. Failing myself is one thing, but failing my grandmother and her descendents is quite another! I stewed myself silly worrying that this project would not work as visualized.

At first I wrote in third person as a narrating onlooker into her world. One night I woke up in the middle of the night thinking third person was all wrong. Grandma was a born story teller so why not let her tell the story in first person? So My Name is Esther Clara shares her life from birth to death in first person, in her words. I lived inside her mind, so to speak, became her as I wrote. She lived again, and will continue to live through this book.

Those of you who are lucky enough to still have your grandparents, decide today to talk with them about their lives. My grandparents weren't rich or famous, but they lived the most amazing lives. I'm so thankful they shared stories with me, so grateful for their wisdom and humor, so blessed to share their DNA.

OK, enough of my shameless self-promotion. But I'm not really promoting myself. I'm promoting Esther Clara and her patient husband Herb. I want the world to know them as I did.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Poetry, Politics, and Poverty

I don't like injustice in any form. Archie Bunker would have called me a commie pinko meathead because I think politicians should be measured by the same yardstick they use to measure everyone else. Politicians should not be a wealthy, privileged class peering down at taxpayers through binoculars. The Medicare Prescription Plan is a typical example of what happens when politicians control the lives of citizens. Low income citizens, in particular, are confused and anxious about this prescription plan. Most pharmacies share that confusion and anxiety. It's a typical government plan because it punishes the poor and has little impact on the rich.

I grew up poor. Mother did the best she could to raise four children after her divorce from Dad. Dad earned a very good income but wasn't inclined to share it with his wife and children. Court mandated child support rarely materialized so Mom worked low income jobs, including killing and cleaning chickens for a living. Believe me, she knew poverty first hand and so did her children. Poverty is a trap, a maze so difficult to escape that few crawl out of it successfully. Those who have never lived in poverty can't fully comprehend the trap, and prefer not to think about it.

When Medicare became law, many politicians were against it. According to those politicians, presiding from their airy dens of privilege, Medicare and Medicaid were social programs. At the time my Grandpa laughed at their rantings. He said, "Listen to the wind blow! Those guys have a nifty social program of their own going but you don't hear them speaking out against THEIR health care perks and benefits." Grandpa's words took on a greater meaning when my mother got breast cancer. She was working as a nurse aide at the time and was denied Medicaid, so she waited to start treatment until old enough to draw Medicare.

Poets have raged against such political inequities for ages. Poetic voices shout against war, injustice, and underhanded politicians. I appreciate the courage it takes to speak out, but hate to break the news that their energy has probably been wasted. Governments will continue to fund wars and secret projects benefiting politicians and their cronies. Health care for the masses will continue to be a failed dream. And the perks and benefits my Grandpa ridiculed 30 years ago will continue to accrue for politicians while low income citizens suffer. When a government has absolute power and does not spend tax money wisely, dissenting voices have little chance of penetrating.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Thoughts on Poetry as promised...


One of my favorite websites for sending e-cards is www.spiritscents.com. Their cards have a Native American theme and are just beautiful. I copied and pasted the wolf mates at left from their site so need to thank them before continuing this blog. In addition to e-cards they sell scented oils and so many wonderful products you'll just have to check them out for yourself.

I'm working on a book of poetry titled The Wolves I Feed, taken from a Cheyenne Parable. In that parable, a Cheyenne elder explains to his grandchildren that two wolves are fighting for dominance inside them. One wolf is cruel, greedy, angry, unkind, vicious; the other is compassionate, peaceful, forgiving, loving, generous. The children ask, "Which wolf will win, Grandfather?" His reply: "The wolf I feed." On occasion, I've been known to feed the wrong wolf. My poetry reflects that. The wounds left by an abusive, alcoholic father run deep. The awful lingering death suffered by my mother from cancer almost killed me. Those rages and sorrows live in my poetry. I've also been blessed with love and friendship, an appreciation for life and Nature, and often reap the good karma I've sown. So I have a whole family of wolves to write about.

Poetry is a very personal thing. Each poet has a unique internal rhythm that lives in each word and line. As a reviewer I'm privileged to read the work of a variety of poets. I've written and appreciated poetry for as long as I can remember. Mom gave me a Big Chief tablet when I was five and told me to write her a poem. Like all good mothers, she knew my strengths and needs. The years between age 3 and 5 had transformed me from a sunny-natured, pretty, vivacious child to a fat, clumsy dullard. She knew that pretty child still lived inside me somewhere and hoped to bring her back with words.

Through prose and poetry, I've tried to resurrect that beauty ever since. One critic said of my prose in The Alley of Wishes, "Her poetic words flow seamlessly, creating a story of incredible depth." That line meant worlds to me because my mother would have been thrilled to know her encouragement found fertile soil.

When it comes to expressing the inexpressible, poetry is an effective tool. Whether you think you can write poetry or not, you need to try. You may find a celebration or healing in words.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Dandelions grow and thrive everywhere!!


I'm not sure if Dandelion Books discovered me or I discovered them. CEO Carol Adler is a gracious woman who treats me with respect and consideration, so I'm happy to know her. From the first day of our association several years ago, her support of me as a person and writer has never wobbled.

I'm a writer come late to the game. My "career" as writer and poet did not begin until after I retired from nursing. My first Dandelion published book, The Alley of Wishes, had been two decades in the making. In the early 1980s I had a New York agent who had submitted Alley to Knopf. That was in the days before internet and email so all correspondence with my agent and Knopf was either by postal mail or phone. I won't go into the reasons now why that association did not pan out. It's a long story better saved for another time. Alley languished until I completely revised it in 2001 and self published it through FirstBooks. It had only been out a few weeks when Carol Adler emailed and said she wanted to publish it through Dandelion. The rest is history.

Carol Adler has a strong work ethic and belief system. We are very much alike in that respect. As a writer, ghost writer, book doctor, poet, editor, and publisher, she understands writing and writers. She's also intelligent and compassionate, with the energy and faith to blaze the path she's chosen for Dandelion Books. For that reason, and many others, I think Dandelion is the perfect home for The Alley of Wishes and my latest book, My Name is Esther Clara. Dandelion's home on the web is www.dandelionbooks.net.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

more looking back plus reader comments....

I've had a flurry of reader emails. Not sure why they chose not to post comments to the blog, but maybe the process is intimidating or they prefer not to have their names in public places. One lady wanted to know more about Dandelion Books, the publisher of My Name is Esther Clara. A man wished to hear my thoughts about poetry and publishing in general. Another requested a top ten listing of my favorite books reviewed in 2005. And still another worried that someone would post derogatory things on my blog.

In future blogs I will talk about Dandelion Books and poetry. Listing my top ten favorite books would be a time consuming task and one I prefer not to tackle, except to repeat that anything by Tom Sheehan tops any list from any year.

In 2005 I discovered KLYD WATKINS' website THE TIME GARDEN. We "met" when Klyd published Compostrella Starfield by poet Charles Potts and I reviewed it. Klyd is what I call a renaissance man because he's a retired educator / musician / poet / publisher. In short order I reviewed Klyd's poetry books and music CDs. His work is distinctive. Some would call it avant garde. Over time he finagled me into sharing some of my poetry. He nurtures and encourages my Muse and bravely posts certain of my poems on his site. This is a man who deserves far more recognition than he's drawn so far. Klyd and friends can be found spading and hoeing at www.thetimegarden.com.

More another day. Thanks for reading my ramblings.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Looking back with fondness...

I promised that my next few blogs would be devoted to fans, or at least readers. On this first day of 2006 I need to share discoveries worth noting, from music to graphic skills to genre fiction to literary lions. These are favorites of mine. Feel free to share your favorites with me.

JOSHUA SUTTON has more talent in his pinky finger than most folks have in their entire body. When I want old faded photographs or daguerrotypes retouched or restored, I scan them into my computer and send them to Josh for doctoring. The photos in my latest book were all restored by him. And when computer glitches blow my mind or I'm lost in html hell, I call for Josh. Check him out at http://infinitedisaster.blogspot.com and see what he's about. And don't think that just because he's my nephew that I'm prejudiced in his favor. Relative or not, I know quality when I see it.

NEW WORKS REVIEW is a literary e-zine featuring new and established writers and poets. I can't remember what kindly turn of fate established me as a reviewer for NWR, but I'm grateful for the opportunity. When deciding whether to take on another obligation, I checked the NWR website and liked what I saw. After reading staff bios, I was hooked. The NWR staff is talented, professional, helpful, and exceptional in every way. Check them out at www.new-works.org and submit a short story if you have one hiding in your files.

NAVAR is an alternative rock band reminiscent of the best rock and roll has ever offered. I'm an old rock and roller from the glory days of Jerry Lee, Elvis, and The Beatles so it takes a lot to impress me. I sort of lost interest in the younger talents, except for STAIN'D, until NAVAR came along. Look for them on Amazon or www.navar.net. Pat and Ben Barry and their group are hacking a name for themselves on the East Coast and this music needs to spread around the globe. Think Navar Nation for starters.

TOM SHEEHAN is literary wordsmith non pareil in my opinion. I envy his gift. One critic called him "a national treasure" and Tom is that alright. He's been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart Prize and deserved to win every time. Maybe 2006 will be his year. Google "Parkie, Tanker, Tiger of Tobruk" and pray to find that story in its entirety online. Or buy A Collection of Friends and discover a few Pushcart-nominated stories for yourself. His latest collection is Epic Cures through Press53.

God, I'm gabby. This is long already. Looks like I'll have to blog my wonderful discoveries in segments. Stay tuned.

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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