Our recent call for Self-Portrait Poetry submissions has resulted in contributions from from around the world (Austria, Canada, Australia, Colombia, India, Norway, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom) and throughout the United States (California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington). Thank you to everyone who submitted poetry for the series.

To spark ideas, during the past few weeks we’ve posted self-portrait poetry from various internet sources. From August 1-31, 2014, we’ll post poems submitted during our recent call for submissions.

Thanks to everyone who contributed their work to the series!

As mentioned in a previous post, we were seeking self-portrait poems (how you see yourself) versus autobiographical poems (what has happened to you). We received many fine poems that will not appear in the series because they were autobiographical. But who knows? In the future we may issue a call for autobographical poetry — although all poetry is in some way autobiographical, n’est pas?

We hope you’ll join is from August 1-31, 2014 for the Silver Birch Press Self-Portrait Poetry Series.

by Robert Cording

So strongly present, enclosed
in familiar features: all you
ever see, your self, unreal
to the Buddhist monk, but
something you cannot get rid of.

Inconceivable, this face, yours
just once to wear, that says, You
can go this far and no further.
That grins, self-mockingly,
when you try to reach with words’

tenuous liaisons what you believe
words do not invent.
Your petitions repeat themselves,
endlessly trying to get it right,
but still you hear only

your own voice, your will
never strong enough
to will nothing. So here
you are, fleshed out in features
that tell the same old story

year after year, the end
just beginning to make itself
clear in the boney ridges
rising to the surface
of your cheeks, in the deep

holes into which your eyes
stare, and sink, an emptiness
asking, What have you ever seen
beyond the point of vanishing
to which we have brought you?

SOURCE: Poetry (December 1996).

IMAGE: Self-Portrait (The Pilgrim) by René Magritte (1966).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Cording is the author of several collections of poetry, including Life-list (1987), Heavy Grace (1996), and Walking With Ruskin (2010). Cording has received numerous honors for his poetry, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He has served as director of From the Fishouse and was poet-in-residence at the Frost Place. The Barrett Chair of Creative Writing at the College of the Holy Cross, Cording lives in Woodstock, Connecticut.

by Piper Leigh

Avoiding the tide of a stranger in another room,

I walk to my sea.

I long for unbroken shorelines, mourn what is lost.
A seahorse lies stiff in my hand.

The tide takes my name. Manta rays fly into view, ghost of shark joins the flock.

I seek scarlet saturation
in tide pools holding an entire world.
My pen scratches watermarks on broken shell.

Waves surge in dreams and darkness, roil the sea bottom,
carry my petition to tender anemones.

SOURCE: “Self-Portrait” appears in The Landscape Between Us by Catherine Ferguson and Piper Leigh, available at

IMAGE: “The Landscape Between Us” by Piper Leigh, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Piper Leigh is an artist, author, photographer, and bookmaker. Her book of poetry and photography my thin-skinned wandering  was released by Tres Chicas Books in 2011. Founder of the consultancy Comunica — where she fosters innovation, learning, and experimentation through creative meetings and workshops, leadership training, and strategic planning — she is the author of the book series Art & Science of: Courageous Conversation, Meetings, Innovation. For a complete list of her books, visit

Author self-portrait by Piper Leigh, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. 

by Daneen Bergland

What is wrong with the geese
is how they appear
versus how they sound
piercing the clouds
with that bottled noise
like a bell rung backwards.
Their necks push
into different weather.
I remember how that feels,
waiting for my body
to autumn exotic.

IMAGE: “Wild Geese,” art print of original collage by Laura Wooten Studio. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daneen Bergland‘s poems have appeared in Denver Quarterly, Cerise Review, and Poet Lore, as well as in the anthology of Pacific Northwest poets Alive at the Center. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, received awards from the Academy of American Poets, and earned a Literary Arts fellowship. She teaches in the University Studies program at Portland State University.

by Lejan

My hair is like a waterfall, straight with many layers. It is as black as midnight, with bits of brown, as dark as a wet tree trunk.

My eyes are as brown as brown, shiny as a coin, big and gloomy, my eyes are.

My nose is like a slide, sloping downwards. Bumpy and rough, but smooth also. Medium sized, placed in the middle of my face.

My mouth is pink like a faded cherry. Soft and squishy. Like a birds feather.

My face is like the sun, light and round. Ovals are crossed with my circle. It’s an Ovacircle.

My body’s like a duck, not fat, not slim, it feels like dry straw. Rough and Smooth.

My feet are like turtles, slow and steady. Wide like the endless ocean.

My hand is big, skinny, and soft. Strong like the wind.

IMAGE: “Blue Sea Turtle” by Coastal Colors Cape Cod. Prints available at

by Bruce Beasley

As the gone-

jet-blasts into evasion, vanishing

while its ink-sac spurts
a cloud of defensive

mucus & coagulant
azure-black pigment,

octopus imago in ink, so the shark

gnashes at that blobbed
sepia phantom,

that disperses into black

nebulae & shreds
with each shark-strike

& the escaped
octopus throbs

beyond, see-through
in the see-through water, untouched— :

so, go
little poem, little

& -print, mimicker

& camouflage,
self-getaway, cloud-

scribble, write
out my dissipating

name on the water,
emptied sac of self-illusive ink . . .

SOURCE: “Self-Portrait in Ink” appears in Bruce Beasley‘s collection Theophobia (BOA Editions, 2012), available at

IMAGE: “Octopus” by Susy Q Studio. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bruce Beasley is a professor of English at Western Washington University and the author of seven collections of poems, most recently Theophobia (BOA Editions, 2012) and The Corpse Flower: New and Selected Poems (University of Washington Press, 2007). He won the Ohio State University Press/Journal Award for The Creation, the Colorado Prize in Poetry (selected by Charles Wright) for Summer Mystagogia, and the University of Georgia Press Contemporary Poetry Series Award for Lord Brain, a poetic meditation on neuroscience and cosmology. Wesleyan University Press published his books Spirituals (1988) and Signs and Abominations (2000). Beasley has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Artist Trust, and three Pushcart prizes. His work appears in the Pushcart Book of Poetry: The Best Poems from the First Thirty Years of the Pushcart Prize and other anthologies.

by Mary Stone Dockery

Before they came for me, I exfoliated in white wine,
watched the glass empty itself like it had every
time before, watched the way my hands exposed
the blue-red veins beneath the skin, how my
fingers would keep moving, touching buttons
or peeling the label from the bottle, or reach
for an invisible choke in the air, grasp, release
nothing. I had waited a long time for their smiles,
their long arms, white teeth. I had waited a long
time to be held like that in someone’s arms,
as if being lifted for the first time. And they took
me, carried me into a place where my body
disappeared slowly into grains of paint, colors
and canvas. There I was able to watch them all,
my hair never blowing up in the wind, the wine
bottle on the table before me never opening,
never spilling, their faces before me large, eerie,
my ability to see more in their pores
than they in me.

SOURCE: The Montucky Review (August 25, 2011).

IMAGE: “Head of a Woman” by Pablo Picasso (1946).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Stone Dockery‘s poetry and prose has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of journals, including Mochila, Gargoyle, > kill author, Midwestern Gothic, Weave Magazine, The Medulla Review, scissors and spackle, and The Montucky Review. In 2011, she was the recipient of the Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award in Poetry. She is also the recipient of the Thomas J. O’Donnell Award for creative nonfiction and an honorable mention for the Vic Contoski award in fiction. Her poetry collections include Mythology of Touch (2012) and One Last Cigarette (Honest Publishing, 2013). A Pushcart Prize nominee, she received an MFA from the University of Kansas in 2012. Visit her at

by Brian Johnson

I pray that I continue to love the resemblance of things.
When the rocks become human nipples, wheat becomes the
spines of fish, the trees are a family of wooden kings, and
the train from Istanbul arrives at noon, dressed as a bride, I
have no questions.

I pray to the cinematic flame. It is a turn, a moment of
uneasiness, the first time alone in a foreign country. The
faces are strange and unto themselves, like the birds nested
in their towers. I walk on the painted glass and watch the
monks reading.

Before sleep, I stare at my name in the light. I search the
mosaic for inscriptions. A group of musicians is visible in
the center, with a goddess twisting her nearly translucent
hair over someone lying on a bed. There is a carafe, and

I am like mumbling in the woodshed, the prayer without
name, or origin, I am similar to that. Like a horse neighing
out its state of loneliness, the hunter looking for his wife’s
hand, the snowfall, the indifferent canoe, I am that.

Roman tombstone, pagan script, table, soul and screen:
nothing is left to children. You emerge from the wood
talking of miracles, thermal springs and fish-stocked ponds.
And here is the oldest game: the sun putting on the robe,
putting on the robe and leaving.

SOURCE: The Prose Poem: An International Journal (January 1995).

IMAGE: “Still Life with Mandolin and Guitar” by Pablo Picasso (1924).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brian Johnson has published poem in Caliban and many other journals.

On Sunday, July 27, 2014, Tongue & Groove — a monthly offering of short fiction, personal essays, poetry, and music  founded and hosted by Conrad Romo — features a stellar lineup:  Jervey Tervalon, Dan Fante, Laura House, Mike O’Connell, and Cynthia Romanowski.


Jervey Tervalon, born in New Orleans and raised in Los Angeles, received his MFA in Creative Writing from UC Irvine. He is the author of six books, including Understanding This, for which he won the Quality Paper Book Club’s New Voices Award. Currently, he’s the Executive Director of “Literature for Life,” an educational advocacy organization, and Creative Director of The Pasadena LitFest. His latest novel is Monster’s Chef.


Dan Fante was born and raised in Los Angeles and lives in West. L.A. An author, poet, playwright, and screenwriter, his work is published in eight languages. Son of acclaimed Los Angeles author John Fante, Dan’s latest book is a detective thriller Point Doom. Check him out at

Laura-House-150x150 Laura House is a comic, writer, and meditation teacher.  You can hear her regularly on The David Feldman podcast and radio show. She performs stand-up & writes for TV & film. Her essays appear in several books, including Anna David’s True Tales of Lust and Love. Learn more at

FILE0570-150x150 Cynthia Romanowski holds an MFA in fiction from UC Riverside’s low residency program in Palm Desert. She is a former prose editor of The Coachella Review and a regular contributor to Lit Central OC. Her short stories have appeared in The Weekly Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, MARY: A Journal Of New Writing and The Whistling Fire. She has been a featured reader with Dirty Laundry Lit the New Short Fiction Series. Visit her at


Mike O’Connell is a comedian, musician, poet, actor, writer, and host of the Drunken Tales of Glory and Shame at Monty Bar on 7th near downtown. Visit him at


WHEN: Sunday, July 27, 2014, 6-7:30 p.m.

WHERE: The Hotel Cafe, 1623 1/2 N Cahuenga Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028

TAB: $7.00 at the door


ETC.: Come early! Seating is limited and the event starts on time! There are parking lots on Selma as well as Cahuenga. Meters need to be fed until 8 p.m. Avoid Cahuenga street parking. The signs are deceptive.

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Hair which she still devoutly trusts is red.
Colorless eyes, employing
A childish wonder
To which they have no statistic
A large mouth,
Aceticized by blasphemies.
A long throat,
Which will someday
Be strangled.
Thin arms,
In the summertime leopard
With freckles.
A small body,
But which,
Were it the fashion to wear no clothes,
Would be as well-dressed
As any.

IMAGE: Portrait of Edna St. Vincent Millay by William Zorach (1923).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950) received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923, the third woman to win the award for poetry. During her career, she was one of the most successful and respected poets in America. Like her contemporary Robert Frost, Millay was one of the most skillful writers of sonnets during the twentieth century — and also like Frost, she was able to combine modernist attitudes with traditional forms, creating a unique American poetry. Her middle name came from St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City, where she was born. Friends and family called her Vincent.


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